Santa's Grotto.

It's two days before Christmas
the news says it's not busy enough by half
but Fargate is full
Of plastic bags leading
Tired shoppers through town.

Wooden cabins dress themselves
In drippings of bark and tinsel
While the smell of German sausages
And mulled wine
Winds through the sales.

A man selling socialist newspapers
Sings his desperate tannoy
across the high street
'Capitalism in crisis'
but someone hasn't told the weekend
dads weighed down by shopping bags;
Rushing through town
with the urgency
Of men who have two hours to save Christmas
from a painful absence.

A teenager pulls a jumper
Over her Marks and Spencers apron,
Pulling on a fag
To smoke out the memory
Of each angry customer
Looking for endless puddles
Of eye liner.

And a woman with a sandwich board
Offers you three grand
For payment protection you've been mis-sold
and a charity fundraiser
asks if you've a minute for the homeless.

Only the street performer
Seems comfortable here,
His eastern European drawl
Has them hanging on each word,
He deftly steps onto a unicycle, beckoning
a young girl over with one hand

He waits patiently but
She just shakes silently
As if she's never been singled out from the crowd.

JOE KRISS.

Rural Scenes.

Turf backbone of old England,
snug round the steel sheds and
machine-fed pigs.
Eggs ramp-rolling to the market shelf.
Reticent sod-busters on diesel steeds;
sons left for gap years.
Loyal collies heel close.
Love foreclosing on gumbooted Galahads,
weeping over the brown sauce
and the chequered cloth.
Sturdy English turf
chopped to busted sods.
Banker's wife witch
dancing naked to Pagan gods.
Chelsea tractors parade to Morris dancers,
rural bit part actors.
Neat computer harvesting the wheat.
Fox rummaging the bins.
Minimum wage in oak beam inns.
Tweedy vicars with double chins.
Horsey types lording the lanes.
Dead hawk ruffled in the ditch.
Poised pike switch to surge.
Village graveyard widow's dirge,
as clouds race over eternal yews.
Wise toads hiding in silent sedge.
Early risers cough
and stagger to fill the trough.
Mouths to fill.
The bedside pills.
Alone awaiting the sun over patient hills.

PAUL MITCHELL.


Eye Doctor.

She said she was an eye doctor,
Explained cataracts and
Operating on the retina;
My lines were cornier.

She said she was an eye doctor,
But I swear blind
Her voice and her smile and
The sharp blue circles round her pupils
Were making me see
Less clearly.

JOE CALDWELL.