Susan UttingSusan Utting 


Under the Blue Ball

Here's where the glittering queen bee descends
every night, with a creak from the rickety spiral,
ducks under the lintel where strangers' heads crack.

Here's where curmudgeons guard seats by the fire,
the inglenook regulars tapping their pipes out
where roll-ups and full strength have kippered the walls,

where bluebottles buzz in with stable lads steaming
like horses; where bets are laid, arrows thud, dominoes clatter
and cribbage gets rowdy with one-for-his-nob of a Friday.

When the bitter gets lively a knife skims the froth, the mild's
dark and dangerous, tasty as treacle, the Stingo's a kick to it,
Barley Wine's kept out the back for the brave or the foolish.

At last orders the landlady holds up the ceiling, wedges the door back
to let out the fug, and over the road the dead shake their headstones
to Country & Western played on the jukebox, or Victor Silvester

slipped in by the landlord. While invisible feet tread the boards
overhead, the hands of the long-dead lift latches at midnight
to join in the lock-in with hippies and huntsmen, jowl by cheeking

with blind-eyed law officers, majors and grease-monkeys,
chippies and shareholders. Butcher and cheese-maker, flagstone
and fag-ash, here's the whole world under rafter and roof-thatch.

from Fair's Fair (Two Rivers Press)
Winner of The Peterloo Poetry Prize

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