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.

Catalogue D’Oiseaux

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



2 comments on “Poems

  1. […] McMillan, it was a delight to be introduced to Suzannah Evans and Rachel Allen. Suzannah read a great poem about breaking into Leeds International Swimming Pool, because she never had. A lovely askewed take on […]

  2. Mike says:

    Both are very enjoyable reads – the Catalogue is clever and amusing while the poetic cynicism of Rapture is brilliant in its denouement. Very nicely done.

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