The self-appointed guardian of our street
stands all day in the doorway
of the house opposite,
glaring at everyone who passes.

His job is making sure the sun never shines
on his side of Raleigh Street.
He holds out his hand for rain
and storm clouds gather to his cause.

I spoke to him once
about some misdirected mail I’d received,
saying my own mail sometimes went astray
to nearby Raleigh Mews.

Did he know that Sir Walter
had a concession on alehouses in the area?
I found myself rambling on
about my long-time hero, explaining

how one of the original fireplaces
of the Old Queen’s Head in Essex Road
survives in the present-day pub.
I liked to imagine the poet

leaning there, smoking a pipe of Virginia.
There was surely no truth in the legend
that someone threw a pint over him,
thinking he was on fire?

Not a flicker from the bad weather man.
He held out his hand for rain
and a few indifferent drops
showed their contempt for my blow-in.

‘It used to be called Thomas Street
before the war,’ he snarled.
‘You can still see the old name
painted on the brickwork over there.’

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