9 Days Remaining
Paul Birtill

Thursday 22nd
posted by Jody Porter in Arts

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

Liverpool 8

The cosmopolitan bohemian quarter,
and also a red-light district –
my Catholic father hated it. He drove
us all through it once on the way to
somewhere and accelerated like mad.
"Don't look out the window," he shouted,
his face all screwed up. I was only eight
and hadn't a clue what was happening, but
I was intrigued and eventually got a flat
round there myself after I left home.
My father never came to visit.

No Interest

I popped into my local library
and asked the staff if their stamper
was working properly. "Yes it is," said
the woman. "Why do you ask?" "Because
no one's borrowing my book." "Well that's
poetry," she said.

Attic Conversion

Rather than move to a bigger house
we had an attic conversion built
in the summer of '72. We watched
the many workmen on the roof and
saw it slowly take shape. And when
it was finished you could see out
over half of Liverpool, as far as
the Welsh mountains. And it had two
new bedrooms, one of which was mine.
It seemed strange waking up on the roof
with the pigeons and having this amazing
view. It made me very happy for a while.

Recently Deceased

I was glad I'd left school
when my mother died. I would
have hated hearing the Headmaster
announce it at morning assembly,
everyone pitying me and being a
little nicer to me that day –
the class bully offering me a sweet,
being allowed to go first in the dinner queue.

How Was It For You?

If I was to meet up with people
in the afterlife, I should talk
about death and dying. How theirs
had been – get them to describe their
final moments. I should want to know
what it was like to fall from a high
building, die in a fire, get stabbed
or shot. I should want to hear from
those who drowned, hanged themselves,
bled to death, died of shock – soldiers
who were blown to bits in wars, folk that
died in car accidents, victims of poison
and torture. And of course those lucky ones
who passed away in their sleep – did they really
not feel a thing?

The Hermit

And then there was the time my father
decided we should all see a hermit,
so we took a bus out to Freshfield
and called on this old chap who had been
in the first world war and afterwards
had built a small house on Freshfield beach.
He opened the door and we all stared at him,
then my father produced a camera and took his picture.
The hermit lunged at my father and we all ran away.

Paul Birtill was born in Walton, Liverpool, in 1960. He moved to London in his early twenties when he began writing, and apart from a brief period in Glasgow, has lived there ever since. His poems appear regularly in national newspapers, magazines and literary journals and he has read them on national radio and at poetry venues nationwide. He has published a number of collections on the Hearing Eye imprint including the best-selling Terrifying Ordeal and Collected Poems 1987-2010.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter –
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