Even in the bad light I saw them come

round the corner at the top of the street

and knew this was it: trouble.

Nothing to do but keep walking

and hope they hadn’t twigged.

But the set of their shoulders

the purpose to their stride

made one thing good and clear:

fat bloody chance of that.


Ten years ago I’d have fancied my chances,

manual work made me hard and trim.

Not that I went looking for it but

I was, you know, handy.

Now after a long day on my feet 

my ankles swell. There’s a twinge

in my back that never seems to leave,

I ride the rush-hour bus and feel old

and slow and heavy.


I packed in the fags but not the booze.

Like they say at the plant, it’s just

managing decline. Nothing’s safe nowadays,

nothing. Job, arteries, heart, 

none of them’s forever.

And now this. Them. Their fury, 

fresh-minted. Me? Dull, blunted,

hobbled by a creeping age

which takes no prisoners.


They remind me a little of myself,

you know, back in the day.

Full of it, giving a fuck 

about nothing.

Myself before the fire inside

began to turn to clinker, 

a lifetime ago, maybe longer.

Swaggering, hungry for something to happen.

Some moment of madness, some hot rush of blood.


Life sweet with laughter, arrogance, and beer.

Today, I only smell the feral stink 

of violence brewing. Here

The air’s electric, primitive and sour

cometh the man, cometh the hour

and all that bloody cobblers.

Once more unto the breach, I guess,

if that’s the way it’s got to be.

If we must. 


Pray god I’m raising a pint tomorrow,

maybe two. Saying there’s life

in the old dog yet,

taking pride in swollen knuckles,

telling myself they had it coming,

moving slowly so I don’t set off the pain.

Another, barman. And one for yourself,

and a whiskey too, why not? 

It’s a grand day, isn’t it? Sure, we needed rain. 


Because when the bragging rights 

are handed out after the rage is spent

somebody, somewhere will be talking it up

boasting how they went 

rushing in where angels wouldn’t dabble.

Now, though, there’s nothing to do but keep walking

to what waits at the top of the street.

The light’s growing worse by the minute.

And this is it: trouble.

◄ Spring.

Beryl's laugh ►


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John Coopey

Mon 20th Aug 2012 21:39

Really enjoyed your spot at harrogate last week. This poem was familiar to me having just read your post on here a day or two before.
Thanks for your kind words below about us.

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steve pottinger

Sat 18th Aug 2012 20:27

Folks, any poet in or around Harrogate who isn't going to Poems, Prose, and Pints is missing a treat. There was a great range of work from some very lovely people who make visiting poets very welcome.

Highly recommended!

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Laura Taylor

Thu 16th Aug 2012 09:25

So - how did it go down then? Did anyone laugh at an inappropriate time? ;D

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steve pottinger

Tue 14th Aug 2012 11:48

Thanks, Laura. Glad you liked it! I think I'll be giving the poem its first public airing at 'Poems, Prose, and Pints' in Harrogate tomorrow - always interesting to see how a poem works (or doesn't) in front of an audience....

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Laura Taylor

Tue 14th Aug 2012 09:02

I really like the length of it as it goes. I'm guilty myself of writing far too much at times, and spend ages trimming and editing, but I think every line is required in this, and it's a beautiful long piece.

I totally identify with the getting older and being not as capable of physical violence/defence/whatever you wanna call it, but the blood still comes up.

A great write

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steve pottinger

Mon 13th Aug 2012 22:06

Harry, you're the first person to mention the idea of novels!

I do know what you mean about the poem's length - and agree there could easily be another, more concise poem lurking in there. One with less of a narrative. I think I'll let the dust settle on this one first, and then see about paring it down to create another 'thinner' poem.

Thanks very much for your comments.

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Harry O'Neill

Mon 13th Aug 2012 21:08

Can`t make up my mind whether the length enhances the fear and the sense of former youth slipping away - or decreases it.

No doubt you`ve been told before that you would make a good novelist (maybe a kind of anglicised Chandler) But some of the lines in this made me wonder if they would work better in a `thinner` story.

Such as:

`Nothing, Job, arteries, heart`,

`Hobbled by a creeping age
that takes no prisoners`

` Myself before the fire inside
Began to turn to clinker`

` Today, I only smell the feral stink
` of violence brewing here`

Are worth showing off a bit more.


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steve pottinger

Mon 13th Aug 2012 19:42

Thanks for the kind words, M.C. It took a lot of grafting and editing to chisel the poem into what you see now, but I think I'm happy with it. I really wanted to try and capture that sense of someone feeling their youth slipping away, with all the implications that can have for their place in the world....

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M.C. Newberry

Mon 13th Aug 2012 15:56

This hits home with the force of a sock full of ball-bearings! Harsh and merciless in its evocation of "then and now". I detect something of the blunt-force trauma prose of Raymond Chandler...or Mickey Spillane on a good day!

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