An uneven finish. Wrinkled
like milk skin but glazed
as hard as twice-fired clay
no brick could break.
It isn’t like a lake you can
skate and look back on,
no rink. It is post-industrial,
a hardened artery,
ghostly bike after Hirst.
Landlocked like kayak, duck,
narrowboats mutter in queues.
Primordial fish move slowly
waiting for sun, its chink:
they are deep,
conserving energy. No Eskimo, I must be
patient to hook one.
Three days they dazzled
Petal-suns printing air
Orange, copper, gold
Only to fold, burnt-out,
Like stars extinguished
As fireworks in water.
The fuse, green-wired,
You cut with care
In case the blooms
Exploded in your arms.
Then dropped them in a vase
To fix the colour,
As I do now
With words for flowers.
The harpist’s beautiful hands, food, a new high-hat –
is this what he thinks about – stranded at the back
of the stage like a bouncer biding his time?
Patient angler, a twitcher
on the shore, he leans to turn the pages
of a score; waiting for a movement, the sign
which brings him, tails lightly flicked,
to his feet, legs planted shoulder-width apart:
to pick the silent planets from a stand
(careful that their paths do not cross)
poised to wake heaven with applause
or skim it with a plasterer’s kiss –
and just as soon sit down
as on a pew. Resting, between gigs,
he’ll give you the old glockenspiel,
how he’s filling in with a trio now,
cymbal-riding, cooking and shuffling,
no triangle. Perhaps it’s that.
Jeff Skinner lives in Exeter, where he plays old blokes’ football once a week and volunteers at the local Food Bank. He retired in 2013 after a career spent as a librarian in the NHS where he also acted as a union rep for Unison.
He tweets occasionally @JeffSquibby.