Three poems by William Thompson

 
 

    Toll

 

I hear the accusations like the Lutine Bell:
nostalgie de la boue or blood and soil;

found poetry or cento. Nonetheless
it makes the Mersey look like churned-up mud,

the curt cuts of an accent awaken roots
inside my parents’ head. After the long

drive north from the flat lands of Cambridgeshire
we’ve pitched up at an unknown cousin’s door.

Dad’s scouse resurfaces, mum’s ‘like’ returns.
I’m out of place. Here, on loved ground

to which I’ve no real claim except by blood;
where the wind knocks the words out of my mouth.

 
 
 

    Flat Cap

 

i.

It’s covering his head
as he drags branches

across the grass.
Its floppy weight

is in my hand
like a well-read newspaper.

I hold it to my nose
when the damp is in it.

I can smell the curls
of bonfire smoke

but not the clean,
cool, outdoor scent

of my father himself.

ii.

It’s tucked under
my grandfather’s arm

as, eyes closed, he draws
a folded handkerchief

across his brow
in the smoky gloom

of a pool hall.
My father

slides his thumb
across the sweatband

and hears a sound
like the clink

of a cue-ball on the black.

 
 
 

    Pietà

 

With the snow-blinding heat of the piazza
left ajar, you slip cheek-first into the gloom.
Sweat cools suddenly against your neck.
The improvising hum of traffic gives way
to the cave-like echoes of the visitors,
their watery, half-distant whoops, the shuffle
of shoe-covering softened footsteps.
And what you feel is the pure privilege
of being there: the chance to try and get
your head around the disquieting thrill
of its straight-faced, gaudy pomp. But then
– like a rebuke – there’s Mary, Mother of God,
still indifferent to all of it as she cradles
the supple, still-warm body of her son.

 

William Thompson

About William Thompson

William Thompson is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. His work has appeared in The Honest Ulsterman, Lighthouse, Ink Sweat & Tears, Atrium and is forthcoming in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-21 (Eyewear).