A Contingency Plan
What if we’re apart when the asteroid comes, or the magnetic storm that shuts off the power? You could be waiting for a train as the sun’s bulb flickers out, high above the glass-panelled roof. I’ll be at work. We’ll lose the phone lines, the door-entry system will go haywire. I will eat from the vending machine, drink from the competition cupboard and sleep on nylon carpet with my colleagues all of us three-weeks unwashed. Stay where you are – I’ll abseil down eight floors on a rope fashioned from the supply of festive tinsel, loot M&S, steal a bike and make for the M1 forty miles of silence and abandoned cars so we can witness the collapse of civilisation with a picnic of high-end tins so I can lie in your arms on a rooftop, our dirty faces lit by fires.
The violin inhabits woods, hedgerows, parks and gardens. Although common it may withdraw from higher ground in winter. Song rich and melodious interrupted by a pik pik when alarmed. The piano is usually seen singly or in pairs, roosting communally only in cold weather. It can find a perch in city centres or on mountain tops. Confusion species are few. Voice a powerful pruk. The flute is a much declined resident, enjoying open grassland and heath. it sings for prolonged periods in flight, a continuous and varied outpouring of notes. At a distance may be mistaken for piccolo. The bassoon is recovering from a drop in numbers in the '90s and is now on the red list. It inhabits reedbeds and its boom can be heard for miles on still nights.
On the day the world was supposed to end, we drove to the Cow and Calf, descended the moor for a cream tea, and walked back. on our way an old man made conversation about the ducklings on the pond. It turned six on Weetwood roundabout and I watched for the saved ascending through their sunroofs, legs swinging in the ether. Looking up I saw the laburnum trees, rustling their gold.
Thursday at the Philadelphia Working Men’s Club
The pig is scandalised by the behaviour of the rabbits. They burrow in and out as they choose, with stories of the streets of Upperthorpe, the Tesco car park, that close call with the Staffordshire bull terrier. The rabbits love the duck although they think he's stupid because he quacks at the little boy and his father whether they bring bread or not. The duck has a strategy and is playing dumb. Everyone is against the hen because she's new with the exception of the turkey, who admires her wit. She thinks they are all two-faced. The Turkey is insecure and inspects his wrinkled neck in the puddled ground. There is so much he hasn't seen.
The Law of Attraction
In his bathroom a small comb balances on a tub of unused wax. On the fridge there are photos; Poirot, Burt Reynolds and himself, top lip doctored with a pencil. He spends an hour a day twiddling his imaginary tips with panache; challenges himself with a meal of soup. He writes the diary of the man he wishes to be, full of words like hirsute and barbigerous, then polishes his brown brogues before going out to dance. He orders stout at the bar, presses the wealth of foam against his stubble. He dances with a pretty girl all night, one hand around her vintage waist and as her lips brush his the universe meets him halfway; he dreams the lipsticked taste of gin and tonic delicious through a layer of fur.
Acknowledgements: A Contingency Plan was first published in Magma 56, Rapture and Catalogue D’Oiseaux are included in the Pamphlet Confusion Species (Smith|Doorstop), Thursday at the Philadelphia Working Men’s Club is featured in The Sheffield Anthology and The Law of Attraction was published in The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival’s Poetry Paper in November 2014.
Here’s a video of me performing at the wonderful Fictions of Every Kind