Two Poems

Matt Simpson

Getting the world right

‘Aye, once we get
a Protestant Pope,’
my father cheeked
shawlies in the snug,
hard-nosed chars
clattering gangplanks,
early-morning mops.

Next Door’s would
have scowled. Across
a creosoted fence
we scarcely spoke,
their lad-my-age
and me. Sometimes
at the coalshed
and him at the bin,
scraping cinders,
shovelling coal,
I’d try ’Too cold
for this ...’

He could expect
at worst his dad’s
I-Thought-I-Told,
at best a few
Hail-Marys-worth.
I was earnest, I
was righting history, I
was challenging wrongs.

Something Electrical
his dad – tricky
fingers: wasn’t he
the first tinkerer
(dropping spanners,
dripping oil) along
our street? And my
Old Man – wasn’t he
with his grubby bike,
just one of daft
King Billy’s Lads,
planting lilies,
backgarden marigolds,
outrageous orange
joke-shop bombs?

Letting us all down

Won’t speak to me. Draught excluder
wedged in tight. Rigid behind
unbudging lace, they’ve seen
my brazen foreign-job pull up.
Behind the door, folds of velvet drape
have stiffened. In an instant.

As if it’s not enough to have spat
in the sea’s paternal face,
shuddered at honourable muscle,
chains, grabs, slings and winches
steaming in the oilskinned rain,
I’ve made a song-and-dance about
how love was treated
in meagre overheated lives like ours,
how tenderness bewildered, angered us,
how winds scraped bitterly
our grey streets.
               Can’t help admiring
your spunk, aunt, the night you phoned,
in your pink slippers, breath catching
like someone holding on at panic’s edge.
You’d seen my picture, smarmy in
the local press, read the cub
reporter’s earnestness. Fierce
from long timidity, you dared me with
‘Thank God your mam and dad are not alive.’

It seems that love still stands
little chance. We always stiffened
over truth, drilled every nerve
to stay stock-still, prepared excuses
for reddened eyes, said nowt.