AS A PETROL STATION

Day breaks deliberate as a petrol station
newspapers and expensive flowers
but you're tired of vacuum-packed sandwiches
and sordid headlines.

On the 1507 out of Deansgate
she's reading The Holy Sinner
the dog opposite smiles
through its muzzle.
Coffee or maybe something's on fire
we do appear to be speeding
unless we're stationary and the landscape's
rattling past. 'It's been a good day'
she says 'it makes up for yesterday.'
'Why, what happened yesterday?'

Days without rain and suddenly it rains.
Breakfast in bed after so many days.
Another country, your body's not your own.
You want to go for a walk. In this?





L'HERMITAGE AND A BIRD

head back, a single drop of blood from its beak
on the concrete like a red coin. Dead eyes
white feathers. It flew into the window and life left it.

I keep doing that.  I'm covered in bruises
but amazingly still alive.

     Vittel's autumn gold and red. Strange
     after the mountains, the pines, snow,
     the sky's unbelievable blue
     from the train crossing the border.

Drums, drums for the bird in flight.
A different sound when it hits the window.





AT THE SMELL OF THE OLD DOG

the cat stares at the space
under the table we burn
a haystack of joss sticks
prop the sash with kindling.

It's no good if she's not happy
restless. Same dog
asleep on the same step
doesn't make any difference.

Telescope needs a coin
to see the boat bright sun
Kids in wet suits jump boy
cradles a bottle of raspberryade. World

full of regrets. Three girls arm
in arm wade waist deep
across the bay their voices carry.
They're on the hill maybe

a little cold and hungry.
You'd give a fortune.
No. Something forgotten.
Fishing boats, rope faded orange, blue.





WOULD YOU LISTEN TO THE SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS PLEASE

At thirty thousand feet he cradles three roses
in a bottle of water between his legs. She coughs.

He looks at her ear, rubs his cheek on her shoulder.
The yellow one's faded, the edges of its petals brown.

She puts his head in her lap she puts her head
in his lap he puts his head in her lap.

He loved the towering peaks of his native mountains.

They move right to left across the ceiling.





THERE ARE MOUNTAINS BUT I CAN'T SEE THEM.

It's dark pass me a spike Mike, drive it in
by my foot, give me something to stand on tonight
we'll sleep like the dead Mike thankful
under whirling stars. Smith isn't looking
too good you have to keep an eye
on him like I do you. Is this clear? The mountain is
not clear it's under our feet but isn't this moving train.

Mike are you still there?
All that winter we dreamed strawberries.
Four months no sunlight, air colder than the freezer
when powdered eggs of all things saved us.

Tell us a joke Mike, one about the chickens.
Have a telephone ring, engineer
an interruption during the telling.
Have the door handle turn your cigarette
light of its own accord. Tell it tonight
at the foot of the mountain.

...time passed slowly in the forest
then we got up to go for a drink.
I forget the name of the pub.
At no point did I remember it.


         Cliff Yates 2004


Cliff Yates is the author of Henry's Clock (Smith/Doorstop), winner of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival prize and a pamphlet, 14 Ways of Listening to the Archers. During his time as Poetry Society poet-in-residence he wrote Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School. He received a 2003 Arts Council England Writers' Award.