First, the overwhelming need to get out of the house.
Second, you like the smell: a resinous high note in the nose,
sharp enough – keen enough – to make a child blink.
Cut pine stood for something, each measured plank,
seasoned, expectant, trim, true. A smell smart as a whip,
quick as the clip you got for back-chat. Inside the shop,
sun-warmed copper and the dull shine of the stepladder.
A compartmentalised world, a masculine dream of order.
Rawlplugs. Bolt cutters. Nails and screws arranged in drawers.
Your favourite aisle: the endless row of coloured doors
opening on to nothing but more doors – no big bad wolf,
no wicked queen, nothing but a smell like promise itself
that keeps coming back as the aisles drift on forever;
and it’s cold like a shop shouldn’t be and you shiver
when a fork-lift truck wakes with a grumpy farting noise.
Here, a stack of pallets. There, a pyramid of tins that rise
like the wish to cry. This must be the world of work
everyone said was waiting for you. You could go back
to the brass doorknobs and house numbers and doorbells –
you could go back and make-believe you’re somewhere else
and the bonny-coloured glass, like the stuff in your porch,
has turned the place into, say, a draughty little church;
but look at you now. You’re making yourself look childish.
With Mam away getting the messages
and Dad flat out on the floor, we sneak upstairs
playing drunk on the dregs of a can of Kestrel
and killing time until the match kicks off on the wireless.
It’s April Fool’s Day, 1984.
We’re fishing for a signal
among police frequencies, pops & static,
ads for fake Axminster carpets,
Morse code from nuclear submarines
and the odd stray bulletin of news from nowhere –
they reckon Mrs So-&-so is up a height
about the rule of the law
that must prevail over the rule of the mob –
though, with the final fixtures now in view,
we’re more concerned about the way our Dad
won’t take us to a match: we’ve all but missed
Peter Beardsley making history,
and by the time we tune in to the crowd –
its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
the distant report of a catastrophe
on a foreign planet we’ll never visit –
the final whistle’s blown. Inachevée.
Downstairs, Dad scratches himself back to life:
Don’t tell us what’s the score, he says.
Don’t tell us what’s the score.