• Christopher Major is a regular contributor to IS&T and this latest piece will have strong resonances for anyone traveling around the UK during the summer holiday period.Read More
People huddle in doorways,
sharing cigarettes and stories,
against the frost, the city and the evening light.
Alone as they find that
they share the same favourites.
Alone as they struggle
to find the right laugh to wear.
A few hours later,
with a lump in his throat,
while rattling home
at the back of a night-smothered train;
in the glare of the window,
he wondered if she
had listened to a word he said.
• Simon Freedman lives in the UK, and when he's not scribbling, he's usually strumming. His poetry has been published in The Recusant and The Beat. Visit his website at www.myspace.com/simonfreedman
Man With Bread
The face of labour on the street
Some days, bread warm from the oven makes it easier to forget I’ve nothing else to eat. But not today. Not after being told to wait while the baker’s wife helped those women in expensive coats who were in a hurry to choose pastries for their tea, as if making a fuss is the same as working hard. I could feel them looking down their noses at my boots and overalls, noticing how dirty they were, which is true this close to the weekend. Probably reckoned I smell bad, too. I could tell from their faces they were asking themselves how someone like me has the brass neck to use the same bakery they do and wondering if they should haggle a discount or threaten to take their custom somewhere else. When I see myself the way people like them see me, grubby from work and needing the shave I can’t have before I go on shift because there’s no hot water till the fire’s alight and I leave home too early for that, it rubs in how hard it is for people who don’t have money to keep their self-respect.
It’s every day and all of life
This’ll sound ridiculous, it does to me really, but what hurt most wasn’t queue-jumpers making me wait – I know how hard the baker and his missus work, how they need their better-off customers more than the likes of me – it was seeing those women stare at the safety pin I use when it’s cold to keep my jacket closed where there isn’t a button. People like that, they can’t imagine not having the proper clothes for every kind of weather. How did I deal with it? The best way I could. I had enough money for a bread roll, so I jingled the coins as if I had a pocketful while they stood pointing like greedy kids at what they’d decided to buy and I looked straight through them. Not much else I could do, was there? No point mouthing off, it would’ve ended up turning nasty. Anyway, my break’s only half an hour and working outside all day, I needed a piss more than a row, so I let it go. You have to, don’t you? You just have to.
People become what they become
• Ken Head's poetry weblog is at www.listeningforlight.blogspot.com and he'll appreciate your dropping in to browse and maybe leave a comment if you're passing.
red hair of my wife
flickering in the hot wind,
glowing bed of fire
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
crinkly gray strands
in the black brush of bristles
approaching heir time
• Daniel Wilcox, a former activist, teacher, and wanderer, is leaving a vapor trail of poetic debris, see
a quiet devastation
Disassociated from life,
for a while.
The day to day hum of home has been stilled,
its equilibrium tilted.
A silent deconstruction of routine,
just for today,
as we patiently wait for time to move us along,
from this closeted pause.
• Clare Phillips-Barton is a mother of two, living and writing in the Northamptonshire countryside.
She holds a rose to her throat,
the leaves tickle her thoughts,
her face like a painter's palette,
her legs like easels.
She was once the beauty
stepping across the red carpet,
gracing coffee houses:
in an age of grace.
she sits and sews and darns
her grandson's socks:
sitting in a wicker chair.
She sees her once dark
and lustrous hair,
and hears sweet music.
Maybe, it is just the trees
the summer trees and roses.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
EMAILS FROM U.S.A.
If you thought
I wanted to cling around your neck?
(that was in another dimension).
A fine catch?
No, with your hands slippery
your feet flatter than dabs.
And what was in-between?
Eels and mussels
and little rock pools
for catching shrimps.
Now silence is your word.
No message on-line again today?
So where are the waves
I once shivered down your spine?
• Maureen Wheldon is currently working on her sixth chapbook, which will be published by Martin Holroyd's Poetry Monthly Press.