Three poems by Cliff Yates

Rain on the Conservatory Roof

First it rains, then it stops, then it rains
again. The blackbird hops on the lawn
with its keen eye, looking to be fed.
The wind chimes chime by the door,
the clocks tick in the clock-emptied house
and though the furniture’s gone, its ghosts
are here: the drawers still full of her things,
the bed with the dent where she slept.

The mirror above her chair that’s no longer there
reflects back all that the room has seen
and all that was said you can hear:
the sound of our voices when we first moved in
and I was as high as the window ledge
watching Dad painting the ceiling…

Me and my brother cleaning the skirting
listen for our lives in the living room.


On a bench outside the Crown
a man takes a photo of his pint – the flash
lights up the street, lights up

the smell of weed
downwind from Burns the Bread
and in the Galatea, the waiter

gives me a knife and fork
for my soup instead of a spoon
as the child says, I know the biggest

planet, what’s the furthest one called?
Her father demonstrates
with the sugar bowl, plates,

two chairs, he grabs a table,
backs it out of the door, cutlery
clatters on the pavement

and above the car park, the silhouette
of the abbey, the moon behind cloud,
the invisible scaffolding.


Jeffrey Austin was born middle-aged:
Brylcreem and cycle clips, a faint moustache
like somebody’s dad or one of the teachers.
Here he is in the bike shed chaining up his RSW,
fifteen years old in his prefect’s blazer.

Prefects. Robert gave us twenty-five lines
for mucking about, then we talked him out of it.
I saw him recently, called in at the farm.
He told me how they found their dad
in the cowshed. That’s how he wants to go.

The barn I creosoted when I was fifteen
is still standing and hasn’t been creosoted since.
Their Derek showed me how to drive.
We followed a track round the edge of a field.
He had to turn off the radio. A good record
made me go faster, I didn’t realise. It still does.

They’ll never make me a prefect –
the special blazer, the badge – not in this lifetime,
hanging about the bike sheds, waiting for something
to happen, or singing along in the outside lane, eight-five, ninety

(all poems previously published in Jam, smith|doorstop, 2016.

Cliff Yates‘ various collections include Henry’s Clock (winner of the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition). Frank Freeman’s Dancing School and Jam (smith|doorstop, 2016). He wrote Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School during his time as Poetry Society poet-in-residence.