(for John Riley)

it was a small town
backward of square
where tall men were brought
down to size
the tug-hoots from the docks
the container transports & long
distance trucks
cutting the corners off narrow streets
halting round-shouldered croquette veterans
in their tracks
the half-century run from East St the fish &
poultry shop
bloodied rabbits on hooks
past the King St Mission
locked & boarded to
the new fish & chip shop the not so new
flats named after famous ships
or were they captains
the fishy walk
bait & tackle exotic condoms & male &
female prostitutes
captains retired to the municipal parks
watching elevens skittled
in a manner inconceivable
‘in the old days’

the brown suited Greek
pipe in mouth
who walks the ever decreasing block
pauses to ponder the plaque on the old school wall
& still cannot decipher
the hidden multitudes
silent & secretive even on market day
the small town
he welcomed the skirts blown out in a gust
stood under the arrowed notice Car Park
debris blown about his ankles
face caught between stern stare & smile

sky ever cloudy
men squint-eyed to the glare peer at the enclosure
the worlds biggest whale on show in the old
the tape-recorded commentary over their heads
cheeks blooded with port
aground amongst shoppers & chanting
small children —
you dossers old dossers
a boot in your bollux —
sidestepping prams & bicyclists
& reflect upon the heavy facts
Jonah the Whale
c/o the Wild Life Fund
thousands of pounds of blubber
thousands of gallons of blood

there are no eyes in the night
i tell a visitor there are no sights
to see
following an imagined musk
beyond the gates & ancient wall
the sea
from a window a marching tune
the Black Dyke Colliery Brass Band
& breaking the drought
a taxi accelerating round the bend
a bevy of magnificent huge women
falling against one another as the car swerved
screaming & laughing
a whirl of piled red hair powdered faces
earrings necklaces & beauty spots
this phantasy of fantastic old pros
the capping inaccessability ….

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