Mr. Riley in the Library
“I’LL CANE YOU, BOY,” his back’d boom at us
now half-heartedly, as we passed the jammed door
then reversed: “I’LL CANE YOU …” and faster: “I’LL …”
though his future tense was two years late to catch us
………………………….Too old to readjust
to the new discipline, he’d been semi-shelved
in library limbo, armchaired in perpetuity,
incredulously watching TV test matches
as England were caned by ex-colonies,
the ball sent soaring for another six
as if lofted out of Trent Bridge.
Born premature, as if in the red,
we dreamt you a compensatory future
in the black, your incubator
a mini-limousine chauffeuring
you away from broke Leicester,
hapless father, ill mother,
softer twin who preferred sleep to shares,
your eyes white open with dollar signs,
a sleep-suited Sugar,
a scratch-mitted J.R.,
with only two pounds to your name.
This poem is too neat
The end of this poem will be too neat, too pat.
It will do that circular thing of coming back
to an image or memory at the start, of connecting
something very early with something sad
……………….The start of the poem will describe
my very first memory of leaving the outdoor
Art Deco lido in Trentham Gardens
which was full of dozens of mummies’ bare legs
and was apparently closed when I was four.
I recall all of us shivering in towels in the car
and asking my father what pneumonia was
because he’d told us he’d get it if we didn’t
leave right away. He explained what it was
and many years later he did get it and died.
I told you the end of this poem would be too neat,
too pat, as if a poem can lock you into a pattern
and there’s no getting out of it.
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is jonathanptaylor.co.uk.