Five poems from ‘The Mains’ by Patrick Davidson Roberts



Below are five poems from Patrick Davidson Roberts’s debut collection, The Mains, recently published by Vanguard Editions. The collection is being launched at the London Review Bookshop, Bloomsbury, this Thursday evening (8th February) from 6.30pm: all are welcome. Event details here.



    Barbara Villiers

for James Brookes


Worked on by the Portuguese Bat, he has been absent
these rampart weeks. I know that I
am no longer young.           When, instead of the king,
I take this young man to bed, he
approaches my works, frets along my stockade front
and turns on me as linstock           the fire breaking
over our heads in far-away Europe. Sometimes 
I catch him mouthing the orders to Hold
and to Advance until the enemy is utterly crushed.
Then the bit lip           cold O of mouth bursting
and shameful retreat           broken casement.
Somewhere in this palace, a Catholic plots his own exile.
His brother counts the childless years.
Asleep, beside me, Mr John Churchill marches deep
into the heart of Europe. When I die no one will know
that even at the greatest moment           of Blenheim
he will remember my love my coin for his commission
I stroke his childish forehead and do not bear his children.


(Villiers, later 1st Duchess of Cleveland, was one of Charles II’s mistresses, and a significant power behind the throne of the Restoration.)


 from Walker


Patrick writes: ‘Walker’ is a long sequence that began life as an elegy for the Dad’s Army actor James Beck, before taking on a darker, introspective life of its own. The stanza titles are taken from episode titles of Dad’s Army. The sequence makes up the last third of The Mains.



     X. A Soldier’s Farewell


 There you all are sitting in a cinema          But you are the one who seems in a fall
 Your grimace           The hair swept back by black          Your eyes crushed to slits
 and the whole shot death-comprehending         Hush in the stalls
 At first I don’t know what you are watching          Is it just an episode that I’m
 yet to get to          Is it a clever double-take       But your face next to the space around
 is gripped as though you were chained to that seat and forced to watch
 Weeks pass and I paw through internet galleries and try and place that photograph
 But all I find is the smile and always the unkilling cigarette puckered
 between your lips         You are too much what we all know you to be

     XI. Uninvited Guests


 One Thing I Can’t Stand Is Common People in reference to the Air-Warden
 The audience give half a laugh          That you would quote against your Cor Blimey
 Your Watch it guvnor         Your How’s about it          And in the terseness of those words
 I see flash your frustration that the door-opener part was beginning to choke you
 That the writer got you to speak as quisling to yourself          As can’t stand
 common you alone           No one matched the oiled tongue of a man a bit handy and
 when you replaced the fag in your mouth the glare across your face smarted
 Suddenly the writer had turned curved trickster and you were mocking
 the very part that he could not hold          You were beginning to eat yourself


     XIII. All is Safely Gathered In


 I Saved You From That Din I and           Now I Need Saving From Something Else Dun I
 Where elsewhere it is all implication that you are the only one they would have
 Out in the fields and in the hay it was clear struck confirmed         That
 your desperate charm was enough the work barely a matter of time before
 the two of you wrapped around one another was what we see again and again
 Even as a kid it was clever          Even at my age it was something to be impressed at
 But then those photographs of you on that location         The sunglasses          Their death
 Your stance suddenly Richard         Your face shockingly lowered         Hands in pockets
 Slowly walking towards the camera Its judder starting to take you away



 I am lying on the desk          She is dressing I am thinking what it would be like to smoke
 And a year from that desk I will start         My first taste will be in thought
 of you in the credits        Your sneaky fag        Your clear enjoyment       The ducked head
 But she is dressing now her breasts leaning into me as she reaches down
 to clip the strap through the nylon          And I do not know what the feel
 of close lace to my school uniform tells me         But I know that I want to smoke
 The walk home through the dark plays Budd Flanagan and the band
 of the Coldstream Guards in my head while I try to remember my excuse
 Round A Friend’s House was the difficult one          But she told me not to tell



Patrick Davidson Roberts

About Patrick Davidson Roberts

Patrick Davidson Roberts was born in 1987 and grew up in Sunderland and Durham. He was editor of 'The Next Review' magazine 2013 – 2017, and is a contributing editor to The Poetry Archive, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Offord Road Books ( In 2016 he was nominated for the Melita Hume Prize. His debut collection 'The Mains' was published in 2018 by Vanguard Editions. He lives and works in London.