The men in the fire engine

Never has a group of faces
been waved at as much as theirs.
None of this lot slide
down their morning bannister
directly into their work shoes.
None of them look like Elvis.
These guys look real.
These guys look knackered.
These guys are burning out.
Their stubble is ash, their heads
are chipped helmets and treetops.
Their engine drives into ASDA’s car park
to the sound of eighteen month old
Nee-nah nee-nah nee-nah.
Skin softens. Windows drops.
Gloves wave. Eyes light up for days.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

We catch up in the evenings

and listen to each other’s days,
the way they meandered
from hour to hour or bounced
like a cafe owner walking past tables,
chest out, chin up, proud
that every seat has a person on it
or shot to the sun too fast or fell
off the edge of manageable.
We catch up and listen
and wonder when we had to start
finding seconds.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Unlikely event

I might be losing my mind,
but does this coffee smell of aftershave?

The barista smells the cup, and then himself.
He apologises and says he’ll make a new one.
She apologises for causing a fuss.
He grabs a fresh cup and holds it underneath
the coffee machine and steps as far away
as his arms allow. He says he doesn’t know
how it happened. The stranger in the queue
imagines losing the strength in his bones,
watching his muscles dissolve, his eyes vanish,
the totality of his organs melting into a perfume.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Tarmac

We get in the car
like it’s a perfectly natural thing,
metal carrying brains and blood
past fields of cows eating grass.
There’s a horse, thick-legged
and ready to run in its steel shoes,
like it’s a perfectly natural thing.
Tarmac is no place to land.
We dance on cigarette machines,
fall asleep in public toilets.
We get jobs, move town, get hobbies.
We plant trees and write poems,
like it’s a perfectly natural thing.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

The guilt sticks

Paw Patrol are looking after you
this afternoon. Potato waffles have too
much salt and sugar for little hearts.
You are collecting falls on your forehead.
You’ve never met a giraffe in the flesh.
You’ve never met a tractor in the flesh.
You’ve never met some people in the flesh.
I don’t know why condensation appears.
I mean, I do, but I don’t really, not enough
to answer your questions about mould.
You are here. I am here. We are here.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

The beard he’s never seen

After John Osborne

The pub was getting busy and he’d been gone
for so long my trousers had gone from jeans
to chinos to jeans again. I didn’t wear
Hawaiian shirts anymore, but flannel checks
then black H&M classic neck t-shirts
then thick jumpers bought for me with confidence.
My hair stopped being short back and sides
and welcomed curls because life can end
at 16 and some things have to be
what they’re supposed to be. He could have walked
in hours ago, floated past the beard he’s never seen,
asked if WKD Blues are still popular,
burst the heads of bar staff with that smile
and bored them about models of Mercedes.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Old man’s old man

He moves with the deliberate precision
of his old man’s old man sliding
his shirt sleeves up his forearm
ready to do the washing up.
Just pop your plate on the side,
you go to bed, I’ve got this
.
The curls on his head are thin,
a tangle of wires behind a TV unit.
He pushes toy vans like he knows
where they’re going, confident
he’ll be asked What route did you take?
when he arrives home on a cold Thursday.
He doesn’t have all his teeth
but he doesn’t need them to smile
at the sound of a squeaky hinge
or to tap his hand to the tune in an advert.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

There is bird poo on the Porsche

A person with a beard the size of his flat cap
walks out of the grey building next
to the black car holding a bottle of Evian.
He unscrews the cap and pours a touch of water
on to what looks like a neatly folded white shirt.
He dabs the damp garment on to the blemished
roof with a shake of his flat cap and beard.
A stranger appears from around the corner.
The bottle of Evian and emergency rag
hide behind the owner’s back.
The flat cap and beard nod at the stranger.
The stranger nods back. The Porsche says nothing.

© Carl Burkitt 2022