A poem by Bill Greenwell


for Chris

She put his tongue in a mousetrap once,
without the cheese. It wriggled a bit, and the vowels
vanished. They were stacking shelves,
and he’d been delving into the pockets of his past
for an hour and a half, no pause. ‘Will you shut up
shop?’ she asked, a bit cannily. She moved him
in the direction of the door, so that the clang
of the bell drowned out his blether.

Another time (he was asleep) she placed
a strip of leather from his lips to his uvula,
using tin tacks to hold it in place. She was just
fixing the bacon slicer when she heard him wake,
heard the natter begin, the clack of his chat
and the sound of the back teeth with which
she was utterly fed up. He came yattering through
the stock-room, oblivious, with a till-roll.

He wasn’t good with the customers that day,
while she did a roaring trade. The blade turned swiftly,
skilfully. She liked the feel of the greaseproof paper,
the sound of the rashers unfolding from her fingers,
the rattle of coins in the wooden till. ‘Come here,’
she said tenderly, as closing time came nearer.
She felt a bit sorry. ‘Something wrong with this …’
He was already leaning in, having a look.


Bill Greenwell is the Open University in the North’s Arts Staff Tutor. His fourth collection Ringers is published by Cinnamon and he writes a weekly satirical poem on www.theweeklypoem.com .

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