His Special Twice
Amongst your favourite ghosts
there is one
with bright blue holes for eyes
now no taller than you are.
He says: I was with you the day
Pele almost scored
from the halfway line, his family
golden and shimmering on your new colour TV.
I saw all that was set and said
at the turquoise kitchen table
and loved it when the budgerigar
sat on your shoulder.
I waited while Pink Shield Stamps,
toys in cereal packets, Hillman Imps,
milk floats and rag n’ bone man
disappeared. I wasn’t sure
we would bear
your granny going slowly demented
or when you did your back in
or your mum and dad divorced
but remember Grandpa Joe
striding down the garden path
ringing the door bell his special twice?
The second ring was mine.
You Continue To Ask The Hardest Questions
You continue to ask
the hardest questions of poor weather
but the snow is indecisive
the cold draws down unknowing
feathering the red watering can
with irresolute flakes
greying the sun. We are neither
within a passing flurry or clear
of a closeting so may
enter night still uncertain
the traffic moored by morning or wake
to blue-draw the curtains
I have seen the nature of snow
put paid to intent, its heavenly wanderings
and meandering footfalls
no arbiter between
the questioning bite of an unyielding wind
and a mind as yet unmade
We pegged the tent
near the inevitably named
Last Chance Creek
beneath an overspill of yellow stars
beginning to break down
I couldn’t eat or sleep.
And I’m sorry
I couldn’t carry on
making much sense.
You loved me that night
but not in the morning
when I said there’s something
ripping me apart
with a bear’s ferocity.
And you rolled a cigarette
with your back to me
while I packed.
Because We Love Birds
One day, he brought down the bird table,
the next, it must have been him too
who had taken it away
though none of the regulars could vouch for it
or provide a plausible reason why
and the CCTV unfortunately
had been broken for a while.
But Ozzie bought a better one from B&Q
and it took just under a week
for the robin to return.
Because we love birds.
We heard that the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit
had moved the poor man on, god knows where
and we spent an hour one morning
moaning about the council, police and NHS
who should have done more.
And later when they dredged the lake
on the far side of the park
while building luxury apartments
they found the old one head down
pole sticking up from the water.
The Heath Extension
That night, just after the nurse told me
to go get some sleep, that there was
nothing much more to be done
that he’d still be there
when I came back in the morning,
the fire alarm rang for a minute or so
and we stood looking at each other for a moment
neither of us knowing what to do.
I wanted to make a joke
about anything, maybe even about waking the dead.
Downstairs, I slipped into the closed cafeteria
still smelling of fish and chips and baked beans
and the shadowy vending machine spilled out
two Kit Kats for the price of one.
And on the circuitous route home
needing hugely to stray awhile
framing the stars through the smeared windscreen
I stopped off by the Heath Extension
where you took me to play football
in my new Leeds Utd kit on Sunday afternoons
then out of the brittle dark, sprang
a small fox and we both froze
looking at each other for a moment, alone.
We stayed awake all night
me listening, sweet to stories
of your evil
but well-bedded boyfriend
the habitual charm at my neck
tightening like a garrotte
and in the idiot morning
you smiling at last, weepy and still
fully clothed, declaring
again and again that I must
be the all time nicest of boys.
I have always hated how
nice I’ve remained fully clothed
in the face of the fuckfulness of life.
All poems (c) 2018 David Gilbert
My new collection, Elephants (Fragile) is out now, published by Cinnamon Press.