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
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.