New Poem for New Site

To celebrate the launch of my new site I’ve posted a poem here that will be included in Jigs and Rigs, a chapbook to be published by Shoestring Press later this year.  The poem focuses on a reading I organised in the late 1990s, featuring the poet Ken Smith.

The Reading

When Ken arrives his foot’s encased in plaster;
he wheels this trolley like a gentle curse,
though shrugs off pain before I’ve time to ask

what turned him lame: concern would make it worse;
a bloody stupid thing is all he says.
A short walk later Ken is nursing

a pint, while we as hosts assert, rephrase
the woes of modern verse, but with the drink
and our cross-talk the rattle level’s raised:

Shut up, he growls, I can’t hear myself think.
A friend will joke about unpeeling his moustache
as if another Ken hides underneath

but propped outside he eats his fish with gusto,
and when he reads, his weighed voice never wavers.
Our bloody-minded poet won’t be rushed –

will muse on hats in every flavour
for ten whole minutes; pausing once to burp
his chip shop apologia.

Post-reading, Ken looks pummelled from his work,
but still has form to join us in The Grapes,
bearing books, reserve, the leg that doesn’t hurt.

‘Ken.’  What?  ‘Ken.’  Yes?  Though questions now escape me,
I’ll remedy what I should have said:
a view that keeps you restless, the way you face

this keening wind, how you mark the edges,
leaves you peerless; don’t slow down, don’t settle,
don’t at sixty four, Ken, end up dead.