Quid in the jukebox The Jam, Bowie, Queen, Elvis – Presley – not Costello
grass-green baize torn and twisted in places twenty pence a shot free on Saturday afternoon when it’s a fiver-a-man tournament winner takes all no chalk for the cues though
footy on the telly screens piracy definitely we don’t complain it’s the best pint in town and they do pork scratchings
they’ve got a bloke who does runs to the bookies backs himself to return the betslip in under 10 minutes he gets a drink either way
the old gagdies tell tales of when they worked the shipyards or some down the pits they shake your hands every time theirs brittle – scarred with hard graft and union strikes
sometimes it gets rowdy when the domino crowds in accusations of cheating to win a 2 quid pot it soon settles down like the best pint in town.
Thanks for taking the time to read this poem, inspired by weekends and evenings spent in the social club in my hometown, which are an important part of the North, unfortunately declining in recent years. If you get the chance, pay one a visit, and sign up with them depending on their membership requirements.
I was 11 years old buying the Sun on behalf of my Dad anticipating 50p worth of sports mixture with the change
a boy i recognised my sister’s age 7 years old trying to buy 20 Silk Cut and 2 litres Cider on behalf of his Dad struggling under the weight of expectation
a man 40-ish years old trying to provide for his family of 6 a newsagent eager to please his patrons to be welcomed into the arms of the community his journey long from Bangladesh to Britain via marriage and military service looking a blend of bemusement and sadness at the boy trying to buy cigarettes and alcohol who he turns away from his counter
a man 50-ish years old reeking of addiction to tabs and cheap booze storming the shop firing slurred slow deliberate insults and asking “do you know who i am“ irked by the response of “yes a thug and a bad father, we dont sell alcoholand tobacco to children“ it was then I witnessed racism first hand shock absorbed in my young brain stood like a hostage the tirade continued the threat of a firebomb to the newsagent and his family the smell eventually leaving when he couldn’t achieve his demands
me, a boy of 11 buying the Sun and 50p worth of sports mixture with the change apologising for someone else’s actions that I didn’t understand receiving a wink and a sad smile I ran home to deliver the newspaper and the news of what happened to my Dad
My Dad then in his mid-30’s a butcher by trade the sight of violence and blood known to him sat stoically on the sofa listening to my recap of events crinkling the pages between fingers stained with ink of yesterday’s news providing words of wisdom “be kind to those who deserve your kindness scum always rises, but it always ends up skimmed and discarded, remember that, learn how to recognise and skim out hatred and you’ll be alright“ followed by “can I have a couple of sports mixture“ I gave him the bag.
This poem is based on a shocking morning trip to the Newsagent just around the corner from our house.
Most of the time there was a real togetherness in our council estate, but on rare occasions, a sinister underbelly came to the fore.
Thanks for reading, I’d love to know your thoughts,
It’s important to remember the same atoms that felt silent rapturous awe at the big bang stared with intense curiosity at the dawn of time that bathed in the liquid gold of countless stars embraced the purity of moons and appreciate the endlessly evolving elegance of the cosmos the same atoms that built and inspired the greatest minds and put words into quill, ink & pen the same atoms that are architects and demolishers are in all of us and everything.
We are all the planets and their chaos the stars and their fury the moons and their melancholy we are universal we are infinite we may feel different but really we are all the same atoms.