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Simon Armitage

'Poem'

And if it snowed and snow covered the drive
he took a spade and tossed it to one side.
And always tucked his daughter up at night.
And slippered her the one time that she lied.

And every week he tipped up half his wage.
And what he didn't spend each week he saved.
And praised his wife for every meal she made.
And once, for laughing, punched her in the face.

And for his mum he hired a private nurse.
And every Sunday taxied her to church.
And he blubbed when she went from bad to worse.
And twice he lifted ten quid from her purse.

Here's how they rated him when they looked back:
Sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that.

' * '

I am very bothered when I think
of the bad things that I have done in my life.
Not least that time in the chemistry lab
when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
and played the handles
in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
then called your name, and handed them over.
O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
then couldn't shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
the doctor said, for eternity.
Don't believe me, please, if I say
that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
of asking you to marry me.

'It ain't what you do, it's what it does to you.'

I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi's and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between
each footfall, picking up and putting down
its print against the marble floor. But I

skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day
so still I could hear each set of ripples
as they crossed. I felt each stone's inertia
spend itself against the water; then sink.

I have not toyed with a parachute cord
while perched on the lip of a light aircraft;
but I held the wobbly head of a boy
at the day centre, and stroked his fat hands.

And I guess that the lightness in the throat
and the tiny cascading sensation
somewhere inside us are both part of that
sense of something else. That feeling, I mean.

'Cataract Operation'

The sun comes like a head
through last night's turtleneck.

A pigeon in the yard turns tail
and offers me a card. Any card.

From pillar to post; a pantomime
of damp forgotten washing

on the washing line.
So, in the breeze:

the ole of a crimson towel,
the cancan of a ra ra skirt,

the monkey business of a shirt
pegged only by its sleeve,

the cheerio
of a handkerchief.

I drop the blind
But not before a company

of half a dozen hens
struts through the gate,

looks round the courtyard
for a contact lens.

'About His Person'

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
a library card on its date of expiry.

A postcard, stamped,
unwritten, but franked,

a pocket-sized diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.

A Brace of keys for a mortise lock,
an analogue watch, self-winding, stopped.

A final demand
in his own hand,

a rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation

but beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.

A giveaway photograph stashed in his wallet,
a keepsake banked in the heart of a locket.

No gold or silver,
but crowning one finger

a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.

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