top of page

3 poems by Richie McCaffery


I meet an old friend in the street.

He’s coked up and I’m drunk.

As we sway and spasm

we ask each other how we are.

Our answers are rehearsed:

we’re good, things are good.

We’re two ambulances

on blue lights and sirens

passing in opposite directions

on a busy highway

but still bothering to wave

to each other.

I walk away ashamed at how I feel

thinking of how sore and scabbed

my grandmother’s legs are

as if nightly she has to kick herself

free from the clutches of death

just to see another day.

Father to the man

Sometimes I wish

I’d a forwarding address

for the person

I used to be,

to write to him

about the apples,

tired of waiting

to be picked, that fall

from the tree I planted.

Apples so red

they’re ashamed or angry

not to have been the chosen ones.


When Dad worked for the Coal Board

he was always our first-footer each year,

giving Mam a little clump of coal

blasted from seams named fondly:

Albert, Victoria, Little Wonder…

Other times, he came home with numbers

which meant the amount of men

dead that day. Once I heard how

he had found some luggage on site

blown far from the Lockerbie Bombing,

one case still perfectly intact, the other

burst open like the traveller had arrived

in a fit of excitement. Then there was

his friend, reversed over by a giant

dumper truck but somehow still alive

and talking, long enough for the medic

to come out, tell him he’d die as soon

as the huge tyres were rolled off him.

Dad held his hand, took his last words,

the engine on, he died at the speed of light.

Since Dad lost that job, he’s struggled,

the mine’s become his mind, coal his

depression, coming up in little bits. He

talks of retirement like the living-dead man

waiting for the pressure to be taken off.


Richie McCaffery lives in Alnwick, Northumberland. He's the author of two poetry pamphlets, including Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press as well as two book-length collections from Nine Arches Press, Cairn and Passport. In 2020 he's to publish a pamphlet with Mariscat Press as well as an edited collection of academic essays on the Scottish poet Sydney Goodsir Smith (Brill / Rodopi).


bottom of page