‘The Saturday Shift’ by Salena Godden

The Saturday Shift

I’m trying to read a Jonathan Franzen article,
his opinion of culture and despair.
Bottom line is, he says,
we just don’t read enough.

There are two old ladies in this afternoon
with frazzled, dried-apricot hair.
They’re ordering double vodkas,
with homeopathic splashes of lemonade.

I’m having a glass of red,
and chain smoking.
It’s a warm September afternoon
but I bet old Reg would have wanted
that fire burning brightly.
He’d insist on more coal and more shush,
raising his long bony finger to his thin grey lips
blue with wine and kissing death.

Reg used to have pints of light and bitter,
but after that visit to the doctor’s,
large gin and tonics with plenty of ice.
They can keep things on ice, you know,
until they find a cure…

Kate says we are selling death,
tobacco and booze, she says,
we’re as bad as any crack dealer,
we all do it to ourselves, don’t we?

The funeral on Friday,
sausage rolls on a plate,
the regulars wear suits and ties,
us girls behind the bar in black and
we all raise a glass,
we served him his last drinks,
because you cannot catch last orders
and if you only had so much time
would you stay at home alone
with a takeaway in front of the telly?
Me neither.

He was in the pub every day;
we watched his sallow deterioration.
He was swollen-bellied and cold all summer,
a stale perfume of decay,
like a snappy threadbare dog.
But we were used to him, we loved him in our way,
and the fireplace is empty and strange
without him standing there now.

That glass of red went down well,
the old ladies buy me another,
I light a fag,
I do it to myself but,
I don’t bother to finish the Jonathan Franzen article.
Life is too short and even I know
we should all read more.
(from Fishing In The Aftermath, Burning Eye Books)
Salena Godden is one of Britain’s foremost spoken word artists and poets. A regular performer at literary festivals in a career that is now entering its third decade, Salena tops the bill at literary events both nationally and internationally. She’s appeared as a guest and writer for many BBC Radio programmes including The Verb, Saturday Live, Loose Ends and Fact To Fiction and she has written and presented several arts documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. Burning Eye Books published her first full collection Fishing In The Aftermath: Poems 1994 – 2014 marking twenty years of poetry and performance, with the majority of the work included previously unpublished in book form. Her literary childhood memoir Springfield Road was successfully crowd funded and published with Unbound Books in 2014. Widely recognised as a trailblazer for fellow performers, Salena has also dedicated herself to mentoring newcomers to the scene. Her voice is distinctive and unique, her performances are electrifying, hilarious, intensely powerful and full of warmth.