bars haven't properly opened, nobody
he wants to drink with.
At eleven, sitting in his usual seat,
Sun's a sabre, cutting through the bars frosted glass,
funnel of light above the snooker table
sees him squinting down his fourth pint at twelve.
A newspaper struggles in his jacket pocket,
winners squared in thick pencil.
'Aa'll gan home early', he tries to say.
A quiet rush of amateur dinner-time drinkers,
next thing it's three,
he's smiling at the barmaid,
drinking as if it's going out of fashion.
Smoking at the bar door,
church clock hits six,
he heads back, a procession of one.
Stood there. Proud as Punch.
Brought a sealed envelope and
one hundred pounds,
in a plastic bag swinging with cans of lager.
He held the baby, everything fixed,
Great night. Could have been longer,
drink got the better of him,
hand welded to a can
in the early taxi.
Cup of tea at four in the morning,
near-empty street reflecting him.
Looking at each house
as if for the first time,
wondering what people do,
how they manage.
His shadow escapes on the new carpet,
runs out beside the unlit fire.
The redundancy holiday
was a nightmare:
guided tours with a Methodist couple,
wife loved them and
his back was 'giving it six nowt'.
Forty odd years of praying to machines,
crawling under crankshafts,
he's got 'aa back you'd kill for'.
Climbing cathedral steps,
throat dry as sticks,
Methodists kept smiling.
euthanasia and lager.
A'11 hav't' get aa second black tie,
Ah'm wearing this bugger out:
all aa ever do is go to funerals.
Friends from work
share grief and jokes,
badges worn with pride
circling outside the Crem.
Twenty minutes service,
rest of the day:
drink no tears.