No Man’s Land: I
Every day I walk this tightrope of tarmac,
blown toppling in the wake of juggernauts.
I walk it to learn the line of the road,
to keep my place on it.
When I was a lad
my dad took me to a strange part of town,
left me to find the five miles home –
a stiff task that taught me to trust my feet.
In a car, it’s all distortion,
one landmark smudging the next:
fast food, do-it-yourself,
a field with corrugated sheds and a scruffy horse.
I come in, hacking on spent air.
She dishes up meat and gravy
that tastes of diesel. You’re mad, she says,
the speeds they get up. And in winter.
The soles of my feet are cracked like ancient lino.
The flannel’s black when I wash my face at night.
Old fool, she says. Do you want to end up dead?
The endless falling cadence of the traffic
swells inside my head and drowns her out.
No Man’s Land: II
The rag-and-bone man would give away a balloon
in exchange for a broken saucepan
or a coat riddled by moths.
My mum boiled the bones clean for soup first
and kept the best rags for the floor.
There’s no currency mean enough round here
for trading in ring-pulls and plastic bottles,
the loops that hold beer cans together,
the polystyrene panels a fridge comes packed in.
You can buy a roll of fifty black sacks for a pound.
They hang flapping in trees and no one bothers to free them.
No Man’s Land: III
I jump out to try and fix the wiper
then snap it off and feed it to the wind.
The rain deals me such a smack
I think of yachting:
the boom swinging and cracking. Blue.
Back inside, I let the radio drink the battery dry.
Football. Jazz. Gardening quiz.
Lorries josh the car, rock it with mad laughter.
I zip my coat up to the neck,
watch the dark melting down the glass.
There’s no one waiting for me at home.
The car snags
then tugs free of its moorings.
Rotating slowly,we Õre sucked out of bounds.
I smell bladderwrack.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.