The Midlands

The Midlands are crying, crying for haslet and bacon,
crying for bridges where railways falter, crying for sumpters
no longer needed on towpaths of moss and built-upon pasture
and troughs of time-stilling water where rodents and litter
are drowning in visions of khaki and Methodist churches and hedges
and car keys and crisps. They are crying for schemes
for the installation of solar panels, for mortgage advisors,
for money itself in the old-fashioned sense of the biteable coin
exchanged for the ancient inviolate volume of sulphuric bitter,
which also they cry for and cry for and cry for at length in the night.
They cry in the car parks of aerodromes, deep in the cellars
of buildings that used to be bookshops but now
are where somebody dying refuses to soften
their accent or will to the ears of well-meaning strangers.
They cry for the conkers and tennis balls lost in the leaves
and fragments of faded pornography, and also the woodlice.
They cry for the fences and steam engine rallies and dogs
and bags of granulated sugar. They cry for the rugby posts
lost in the mist, for vandalised road signs and nullified Sundays,
for the teenage perceptions of dreadful pan-Midlands despair
at the doom of solitude made real in bedrooms
invaded by older sisters themselves driven mad
by the tussocky desert of pop songs and taciturn lads
in the suburb-like towns and the town-like suburbs
of Dirgeville, and Grieflington, and Sad-at-Heart.
This is neither under nor over, nor near nor far.
There is not the flash of headlights on the wall
to say that someone loved is coming home.
There is not even the clarity of hatred, but only
the rain that sets in on a plain between ridges,
the magistrates courts as busy as ever, the chorus
of starlings chattering trenchantly on in the skies,
an unfound grave of a Mercian king under wurzels,
new housing, and out-of-town Asdas that mop up
the rheum of the foothills that lean-to the North.

Tony Williams

Café Culture

The café and its coffee
were nothing special,
but it was here we first
ventured the word Love.

The tables were made
of reclaimed floorboards,
the chairs were ex-chapel,
with little Bible holsters.

We held hands over wood
that once knew the soles
of dancers. Everything
in the café that day

had undergone an identity
change, though the eyes
in the old pine grain
had seen this all before.

Richie McCaffery

The past slid back

and our childhood stands
in a long-worn place:

the plush of our hands
by a stammering fire,
the sputtering tongue
of a candle then higher
than dark, brotherly hills.

Still, I see the films of our eyes
now flicking with years:
warming our bones
on the doorstep of home;
the ropeswing,
the late light,
the searchlight
which groaned
in that long afternoon
when you didn't come home.

the cracks in this ground
still hold twelve-year old feet.
The voice of the child that you were
curling the ceiling to meet
with the ghost of your long-lost past.

And last,
I think of the distant
chime of your voice
that split
at my skull;

my dull dumb thumb
on the telephone which rung
out the world
for your words,


wherever you were

you were gone.

Laura Potts