Bloody hell

There’s a funeral on TV for a character called Carl.
The tiny church is only half full and the man
doing a reading barely knows the deceased.
He spends some time repeating his fear
of dying in the town he hates.
The only person crying is a baby and her mum
doesn’t care. She answers her phone
to swear at a man called Shaun.
One of the scene’s punchlines
is the description of Carl’s ungraceful suicide.
To spare anymore awkwardness
the wife of the reader sings Danny Boy
in a silly voice through red lipstick.
The 12 people in the crowd stand and join in.
Their faces fill with smiles and laughter.
Carl is in an open casket.
He is old and has a good head of hair.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

The people who stare at stars

Knowing that people across the world
use their time to stare at dead stars –
some spending thousands on telescopes
to get closer to the flaming corpses –
or pour hours into poems and lyrics
dedicated to their ancient mystique
or memorise their names and shapes
or buy them for a loved one’s birthday,
I feel less worried
about how often I still lie awake at night
thinking about you.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

8:00 AM

A sexy bloke in blue running shorts
carrying a pack of chicken breasts.
A builder yawning
over a wheelbarrow of concrete at his feet.
A wide awake butcher in her van
eating a bag of ready salted crisps.
A broken white plastic fork
lying jobless in a puddle.
A cold lonely bus stop
wondering if people will visit.
A deflated balloon of a man
standing at the window
relearning what to do.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

Bullet point personality

You know those
Rousing • Heartfelt • Exciting
three word descriptions
Inspiring • Feel-good • Romantic
Netflix put under the titles
Provocative • Witty • Inquisitive
of their TV shows and films?
Offbeat • Riveting • Funny
It can be tiring
Deadpan • Quirky • Cynical
thinking what three words
Dark • Emotional • Tearjerker
they would use for you.
Intimate • Hidden gem • Drama

© Carl Burkitt 2021

Force

I was watching a man
standing on the pavement
who didn’t know I was watching.
He was wearing a long,
autumn leaf brown coat
and holding a clipboard
in his black leather gloved hands.
He was doing that thing
when you open your mouth
and slowly flick your tongue
against the inside of your top front teeth.
An ambulance drove past slowly
and did that thing
when they fire their alarm for just one second
and the man jumped like he was falling
and caught my eyes looking at him
from my top floor flat.
He waved at me with a force
you’d wave at a dead loved one in a dream.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

Sarah

I knew a woman from Newcastle
who was born in 1898 and died in 2003.
She used to come to our house at weekends
and not eat cheese sandwiches.
We never really talked to each other
because I was young
and she was bored of human beings.
One Sunday, when I moaned
about having school tomorrow,
she told me how every other morning
when she was 10 years old,
with a lunchbox in her hand,
she and her mum would walk past
the bodies of dead men in the River Tyne
who had stumbled out of pubs the night before
into the pitch black, waterside streets.
She had the hair of someone
who used to enjoy eating her crusts.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

Sunday roast

There’s a sex scene on my TV
and I’m thinking about my grandparents
eating a Sunday roast at The Running Horse.
The whole family was there,
dotted across the top floor on planet round tables,
celebrating their 40th anniversary.
Grandma and Grandpi
had their own table for two
and spent the afternoon smiling
at the universe they had created.
One of the three naked men on my TV
is grunting at the other two
for not letting him get involved
and I’m sighing at the adolescent me
cringing at Grandpi sliding his hand over Grandma’s
when nobody was looking.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

There’s a cup of tea sitting on my desk teasing me with energy and warmth

I can see a bloke from my living room window,
his shoulders are hunched
from the weight of carrying five overly stuffed
Waitrose shopping bags for life. It’s either
sweat on his forehead or he’s been crying up.
No doubt when he gets home he’ll unpack
the jar of sliced pickles, the cartons of oat milk,
the buy one get one free tins of tuna,
before sitting on a high backed sofa
wondering whether he should call that friend
he’s been putting off checking in on
and here I go again
banging on about a cup of tea
sitting on my desk
teasing me with energy and warmth.

© Carl Burkitt 2021

Missing the point

The man with strict sideburns
shaped liked ice hockey sticks said
I may have been a trifle harsh
and I saw layers of custard lava,
concrete jelly, rigor mortis ladyfingers,
strawberry eyeballs and dandruff sprinkles.
The man with a curly fringe
sipped some expensive whiskey,
shuffled some important paperwork
and said It’s forgotten,
and I saw myself sent out of Third Set Science,
my head branded with a burning,
invisible Silly Boy.

© Carl Burkitt 2021