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cover art Poems from the Other Land by Ruth Mark
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J o h n   R o c k   V i s i t s   t h e   D o l p h i n

Thick work boots, soles easing slowly
from their hinges, flap like tongues,
the roots of this orange, artificial flower
coarsely-cultivated in the soil of the Braid Valley.
A mass of pockets, in trousers, jacket,
he fumbles for change, asks "Wot's good today?"
I offer pasties, sausages, chicken burgers
for his perusal, an aficionado deciding his pleasure
like any connoisseur in some French 5-star
and not here, in this local chippy.
He mumbles "chip, and make it quick"
he's got roads to patrol, asphalt
important as soil to a farmer.
I scoop and wrap, hand the soggy parcel at him.
I see him stuffing the scalding
browned fingers, handfuls at a time
shoveling like there's no tomorrow
just outside the shop, his mouth
a piston, the feel of his
calloused hand brushing mine
a memory that will always signify
hard living, hard life.
No-one else will serve this man
He stinks the consensus
but I feel an unexplained compassion
though dread his visits, don't know where
his money has been, as I drop it slimy
into the till, unseen laughter echoing
from the bowels of the shop, him gruff with the
injustice of it all. His money
as good as anyone's.


First appeared in The Green Tricycle, June 2004

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