Below are three poems from Richard Skinner’s new pamphlet The Malvern Aviator, recently published by Smokestack Books.
I am Egbert Clague. I come every morning from Agneash hoping for the nod from the bargain man. It takes two hours to descend the ladders, our tallow candles round our necks like white asparagus.
The hole to go down is just two foot by two, the spokes like blunt knives, the blackdamp smelling awful. We chip and hack until we see the sparkle of the rich extraordinary, haul it up through smoke to the adit.
One day, they brought me up in the dead box, my leg crushed. The Captain of the Mines came in person to the cottage and said, ‘We can’t give you anything and that will have to keep you.’
My wife Brenda is on the Washing Floors now, sorting ore from stone ready to ship to Swansea. It’s worse work than the mine — she has no more feeling in her hands. I’ll be joining her there soon.
Meantime, I grow veg, read and visit the village chapel on my sticks to pray our Sooki will one day flee. When I’m alone, I kneel and whisper, ‘The affection you get back from children is sixpence as change from a sovereign.’
Via Fiori Oscuri
(Milan, 1st May 2015)
Flashes of cornices in puddles. Street cleaners on tractor quads that expel angry air from flues.
Pale striped awnings buffer on balconies, a radio blares from a kiosk. The Pinacoteca is closed.
A purple billboard announces reticulated giraffes in the new zoo, a recurrence of atavistic beasts.
Two cars smoulder near Bar Magenta, anti-Expo graffiti on metal shutters, the air perfumed with violence.
Later, a train to Bergamo Alta. Factories like strips of magnesium, barber pole stacks pumping effluence.
Up the funicular, amid the towers the back alleys a nexus of admittance, a confluence of ancient tongues.
My grandmother is sitting in a village hall watching her Art play his sax. She is 19 and is wondering when they will have their first conjectural sex.
The hall is hot, too few windows open that are far too high. Next to her, Bert is too loud at his drums. Art’s brother, Eric, is dancing madly with a hussy named Kat.
My grandmother is waiting for the last song— she has been here many times before— when Art will unclip his instrument to have the last dance with his Vera.
It is summer 1931, somewhere near Malvern Link, well before the years of struggle with her disabled daughter, the home they eventually found for her in Worcester.
Then the War: the years of saving for furniture because she didn’t approve of HP. Art’s slow rise to Co-op Store Manager in charge of women’s outfits and drapery.
Later, she whispered to me how terrified she was on her wedding night, but how kind-hearted Art was, who just hushed her and turned out the light.
In the home, she told me she fought every night with the devil in her dreams. Often, she would stare at me and demand to know if she were standing in a stream.
But this is all still to come. Right now, my grandmother looks at Art (‘How handsome!’), notices the shine of his bow tie and single button, the big A on the kick drum.