Fairy Lights in the Shopping Precinct

They’re sprinkled across rooftops
of Costa, Oxfam, the school uniform shop,
like electric blue bird poo. Little fingers

point up at them and wonder
if anything is ever the same when you wake up.
There’s a Christmas tree bigger than our house

with baubles as big as Ford Fiestas
and I’m thinking about the size of the axe
that took this thing down.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Festive latte

She sits and sips her festive latte,
the kind with flavoured syrup like cinnamon
or gingerbread or glittered winterberry.

The froth is shaped like Santa’s beard
and she can’t stop flicking through
a notebook her eyebrows seem to hate.

Her phone rings, her tongue tuts,
her finger presses the green button.
She says things like Forecasting and VAT
and doodles a dead reindeer on a napkin.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

I don’t enjoy spending time with him. He’s too simple.

I spend hours in the pub
listening to strangers talking to each other
picturing sitting on their sofa
drinking the cheapest beer from ASDA,
chewing on oven-cooked cheese pizzas
(because it’s the quickest thing to do)
while asking where they got their cutlery from,
pointing out the number of condiments
stacked in their fridge door and nodding
at the photo on the wall of a mate
we both miss with all our bones
and then one of them says a sentence
and I’m back in the pub remembering
it’s best to be on your own sometimes.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

I nod

I like standing in service stations
pretending I know how to drive a car.
I walk around the table of books
in WHSmith with my hands behind my back
twiddling my fingers as if I’m holding keys.
I nod knowingly at blokes
who say things like Good to stop for a bit.
I put my fists on my hips and yell
as I arch my back like Dad
on the way to Devon or Wales.
I order a large caffeinated breakfast tea
to say This should see me through.
I start conversations in McDonald’s queues
about A roads and how it’s difficult
to keep a toddler busy in the back of the car
but how his smile in the rear view mirror
is a punch to the part of me that always thought
I could teach him how to drive a car
and keep himself safe.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Paul Scholes says he actually liked playing on the left for England

but we gather in the Rat Trap pub 19 years ago
to make a fuss. We put words together
that fit easily, have an allergic reaction
to ideas formed from unfamiliar flavours.
Our Sunday league knees know
what it’s like to play in a position in which
we do not flourish, like a tap dancer
in charge of laying the wooden floorboards,
and we refuse to trust the heads of people
who have dedicated their lives to something.
I am celebrating my 21st birthday but I’m 18,
pretending my minimum wage has not spent
the last three years falling illegally
into the till of a kind man
fooled by my top button, polished shoes
and wet look gel painted on the hair of an ego.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Floats

The man sits in the pub
with the wardrobe of a football pundit:
navy blue chinos, salmon shirt,
trainers pretending to be shoes.
The froth of bitter snows
from his moustache while he nods
to his own opinions
They just need to clear their lines.
The fullbacks need to sit.
The keeper can’t command his box.
The barman, all skull tattoos and flesh tunnels,
gently puts his book on the bar and says
I love the way Phil Foden floats
as if the pitch doesn’t deserve him.
The man crunches a dry roasted peanut.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

You open the door

and my legs are chaotic spandex.
You pick me up by my torso
with the fingers of a wild referee.
Daft eyes can’t help me now.
It’s time to show the future how to wrestle,
how to follow the passion that keeps you
up at night. Come on then Dad,
you say. Let’s see what you’re made of.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Explode

The moon is an exhausted firework
struggling to peel the duvet off
its skin every night to watch
people drinking hot chocolates
with lips desperate to talk
about the things they’ve done
and think, kids in wellies made
from the promise they can be
whatever they like. The bonfire is
too far away for the moon to feel
the warmth or hear the cackle of life.
The moon is too tired to explode.

© Carl Burkitt 2022

Hello?

I never get
wrong number phone calls anymore.
Do people only call the people
they were intending to call now?
Is there a new generation
of confident button typers?
Or are they still out there,
trying to reach the wrong people
for the chance to say I’m sorry
to someone who’s really listening?

© Carl Burkitt 2022