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Five poems by Jonathan Edwards

Edited by JODY PORTER

Five poems by Jonathan Edwards

Dai Evans

He was the boy from the other side of the fence,
passing me rugby balls, dodging the washing line’s tackles,
winning the Grand Slam at the end of the garden.

He started shaving a month before me, swelled
to the size of a prop. Coach called him Tweedle-dee:
he wore his father’s aftershave, his mother’s hairspray

to the rugby club disco, stood at the bar
through the slow numbers, loving from a distance.
We lost sight of each other at eighteen,

me swotting in my bedroom –
Keir Hardie and the Rise of the Labour Party
him with a job in the TV factory,

a car with an exhaust you could hear three streets away,
a future my father said he could see coming.
Within a year, he’d made The South Wales Argus,

passing tabs to an off-duty copper
in the toilets of The Tom Toya Lewis.
It was down to his auntie to keep us in the picture

when she walked to chapel with my mother:
‘They’ve been over every inch of the house,
checking in drawers, down the back of the cistern –

his mam’s in bits, you know. Bits.
They even took off her wallpaper –
two drug squad blokes with steamers and scrapers –

who would’ve thought, Jan, it would come to this?’

 

La-La Land

‘You are not here’ – graffiti on boarded-up shop, Newport town centre, September 2013

Town centre. Docks. 10% off.
Pillgwenlly. Buy one, get one free.
Tattoo. Heddlu. No u-turn.
Pensioners’ special. £10 perm.
Undertaker. One-way street.
RSPCA. Organic meat.
Nike. Adidas. No Fear.
You are not here. You are not here.

Allt-yr-yn. Caerleon. Maindee.
Pound shop. All goods 50p.
Opening soon. Last week. To let.
Win £300 for a £10 bet.
Keys cut now. Neighbourhood Watch.
Private shop. School crossing. Stop.
Hospital parking. Lager. Beer.
You are not here. You are not here.

Bettws. Bassaleg. Gaer. High Cross.
Liquidation of bankrupt stock.
Budweiser. Smirnoff. Sanyo. Sony.
Resident permit holders only.
Bought for cash. Zone ends. Look up.
This is the home of the Ryder Cup.
Walk-in sunbeds. Keep your skin clear.
You are not here. You are not here.

New B & Q in Ebbw Vale.
Newport. Museum. Closed. For sale.
Westgate. Stow Hill. John Frost Square.
TJ’s. Angel. Service. Repair.
Jesus saves. Now open Sunday.
Own it on DVD from Monday.
Job Centre. Wait. Parking to rear.
You are not here. You are not here.

 

Day Trip

The ticket stuck out of his pocket
like a little orange door, left open:
just a second’s work to pinch it,
stow it safe next to my wallet.
Then I went wherever he’d been going.

As for him, he was nothing special,
slack-jawed in front of Departures Arrivals –
one of the many the railways must hire
to stand round stations and make them look busy.
I stepped off his train three hours later,

in a seaside town I took for his home –
a pint in his local, then half an hour
by the school gate, picking his kids out
from the zoo pen of the playground.
On the beach, I dipped my toes in his sea,

then wandered through the terraced streets,
made TVs of living room windows,
wondered which home I’d forgotten my key to,
but couldn’t be sure. Back on the beach,
night’s PA system made the waves louder –

it was cold now. It would only get colder.

 

City

The streets were what they were. The streets were places
with people in them, doing stuff. That’s mostly

walking. That’s mostly walking into shops
or out of shops or doing what they can

to get you into shops so that’s all mostly
shop-related. The streets? The streets were places

or times with people in them: they were mostly
waving their arms round, look, as they talked

or treating, look, the street like it were something
to shout across, or spit upon, or rattle

their godforsaken or else multicoloured
charity tins in. They megaphone’d

the word of Jesus down them, did their skiless
slalom through the streets, as look these half-arsed

builders on their lunch breaks flounced towards
the bookies, fluoro-vested walking warnings

against something, or else the ones whose work
we walk on. Peace and love- or simply moola-

loving buskers – listen – filled the streets
with their right hands, or turned their breathing into

music, as girls sported fancy jackets
to go and buy a fancy jacket in.

Some bald dude, wearing his stylishly massive
headphones and a grimace swerved a girl

who was his girl this time last week but now she’s
standing outside Thornton’s with free samples

of fat on a tray, grinning. The streets were made
of bits of your shoe leather, were what they were,

places with people in them, where there were no
bushes. Some night, half-blinded by the light

above the new Iceland you’ll clock the bloke
selling his poverty outside the bankrupt

building society and, as you walk
towards him then as the wind, the world, spins,

you’ll find your clenched fist open, offer him
all you’ve got in your empty palm: this moment.

 

Retail Park

What is it, really, but a bunch of buildings,
stuffed with things that could
be yours? A landscaped

mini-roundabout, a massive
car park. When you stroll
hand-in-hand down paved walkways,

your reflection advertised
in these shop windows, you are this close
to all you desire. To sit at this table,

sipping latte, is to be in the company
of people who will clean up after you.
Out on the tarmac, a discarded

Costa loyalty card shines
beneath a streetlight. Like God,
the automatic door outside Clinton Cards

knows exactly where you are.

 

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection of poems, My Family and Other Superheroes, is published by Seren. He won the Terry Hetherington Award in 2010, received a Literature Wales New Writer’s Bursary in 2011, and in 2012 won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award. He is a member of Red Poets, the Welsh magazine of left-wing poetry and loose collective of performers, and his work has appeared in a wide range of magazines, including Poetry Review, New Welsh Review, The North and Poetry Wales.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter.
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