8 Days Remaining
Peter Raynard

Wednesday 1st
posted by Jody Porter in Arts

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

For Tommy it’s all about the Music
Peter Raynard

“Maggie Thatcher You Can't Match Her”
is railing on the jukebox for the fifth time
that Sunday night, a time when the women
are at home readying the kids
for future failure or an early night at least
kicking off their blankets and wetting the bed.

The old Paddies, full of pints & roasts,
lost bets and building site widows, shout
about the auld whoor and how she is ruining
the country they came over to build
when they couldn’t afford to build their own.

The young lads are all one-in-ten UB40s,
gabbing about the football, fanny
and who's next for a beating
at pool. Signing away their life
at the social, they can still feel
the cane-lined education across their palms.
Their days will lengthen across the decade
like the grey shadow of a cloak
soaked in the blood of industrial resignation.

Tommy’s sat amongst them. Once
a scuffle of calcium, now a jenga of bones
carved in the corner with smoke-gold fingers
and no mind to argue with an empty glass.
He’s beaten down by the interventions of time.
Says, he keeps hearing things he’s never said,
wants someone to call him a psychiatrist
next week. Any day will do, except for the ones
he’s dissolved in drink. He’s a packed diary.
The lads tell him he’s got the experience
but not the qualifications. It’s a joke
he doesn’t get, but no-one makes the call either.

By the middle of the week Tommy's kitchen
has music dancing off the walls without
a guide rope. A few too many lines
have been chopped out by himself.
He’s shaking with uncertain psychosis,
and is in need of the solitary confinement
of weed. Takes off to the shop with the fairies,
for fags and skins to roll a calm one. Then sits
in the company of a pigeon decorating
the bench with other white shit from the city’s
indulgence. Tommy smiles as the Hail Mary
Jane takes to playing him a soothing tune.

Meanwhile his muscle-in-residence
anabolic neighbour turns up at the empty flat
to tell Tommy he’s broken their keep-the-peace agreement
hammered out at three o'clock Monday morning
over empty promises and a full bag of Super Brew.
Yer man spots Tommy's powder floured across
the table like the extravagance of an apprentice baker.
He jibs him to the beasts, but not before stealing
a line or three for his own well-tunnelled nostrils.

So now Tommy’s bored as a spirit level
in an IKEA showroom. Flat packed
on the lower deck, in a 23 hour lock up.
He listens to his top bunk’s bucket list for when
the great outdoors opens once again. This lad
is little more than an 18 year old roll up,
a career choice cock up. A neck tat toe rag,
useful as 90 pence in Poundland, he stinks
of stale digestives. The lad needs crampons
to cling to his delusion, instead of slip up plimsolls
stolen from the pay-us-what-you-got shop.

Says he knows the inside of a car inside out,
cackles like a cauldron stirrer, then shows
Tommy his un-fathered hands. For the next
six weeks he is nearly all Tommy will see, laid out
on a diamond wired spring framed mattress,
gabbing on like a trade description act
in a six by ten picture frame for Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
Tommy’s got his whole life behind him but he’s losing
all feeling toward keeping another lad safe
from a future stretched out dreaming at the ceiling.

Tommy finally gets to see the psych. They listen to music
together with the door shut, in the prison’s excuse for a chapel.
Strings and piano keys echo through the rows of empty chairs. Enough
to make Tommy all calm. And so, for one hour a week
at least, he's free of all those fellas jabbering away
in his head about Thatcher, the horses, football and the fanny.



Peter Raynard is the editor of the online anthology, Proletarian Poetry: the poetry of working class lives ( His poems have appeared in a number of publications and his debut collection, The Common Five-Eighters will be published by Smokestack Books in 2018. He is also a member of Malika's Poetry Kitchen.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter (
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