by Helen Burke
This is his home town only because
he doesn’t know how to leave.
The way out involves time-tables.
He has trouble with them.
This is his home town.
This is where he cleans his teeth.
Like a bruise, he is not sure how he got here.
Just that he is here.
He offers strangers crisps.
He stands at train-stations
looking at maps.
Eyes as big as gob-stoppers.
“Skegness, it’s so bracing,” the poster says.
He wonders where it is.
Once he went to Leeds but
he kept his eyes shut and so
the memory is blurred.
He has come to call for Peter.
Peter is his mentor, rides ladies’ bikes
and thinks he’s from the moon.
We ask him where he’s from, he says
a hospital in Middlesborough.
His mother had him there because of Aunty Sadie
and her breeding dogs like.
He’s never known his dad.
It seemed the best for all concerned.
Though sometimes on his birthday
he wonders if he’s dead.
This is his home town, his I’m–in chains
He used to be a window- cleaner, but
didn’t like heights.
He could only do the bottom ones and people
can be funny. Now
he works at the bookies but has never seen a horse.
He stands and watches trains.
Watches people boarding them
and offers strangers crisps.
Helen Burke has been writing and publishing poems for 25 years. She has just won the Sheffield Festival PoetStars Prize and second prize in Ilkley Lit. Fest performance, which she has won on two previous occasions. She had a show at the Edinburgh Festival this year which had a highly starred rating by the Scotsman. She has just completed an M.A. in Literature Studies at St. John’s University in York.