Tuesday 20 April 2021

Three Poems by Paul Tanner


no wings yet, Charlie


bored livid

bed and bored born and bread

and circuses:

the warehouses and supermarkets yawning you in.

ashtray digger, you cum in the mouths of raggedy babes

and lose loves that weren’t yours to lose, aye

but the pot-bellied divorcee sneers

as you put it in

after a double-shift

and you sneer right back,

your pot bellies rubbing

like two back-to-back warehouse shifts:



it’s like some sort of farm.

everyone’s a farm

on everyone else’s land.

land, land … 

outer space? just another theoretical thing to shame ourselves with.

no wings yet, Charlie.

wingless arms bruised from the supermarket

flogging under the landlady’s orange brick shadow. 

bung her a couple of quid extra when you can:

she’ll look the other way when you leave a wine ring

on the bedside dresser.

she’ll look the other way

when you put it in,

sneering at the dresser

as you




this Cheshire yeast 


of course

the worst part about waiting for the jobcentre to open

is not when some fat whelp pushes in front of you

and you ask him politely to do one

and he uppercuts you  


and it’s not when you leave the queue

and go stand at the bus stop opposite,

to massage your jaw and despair in peace 

while the queue points and yells from across the road 

calling you a faggot and whatnot


it’s not when the jobcentre doors open

and you watch the queue charge in

and you can’t be bothered to follow 

since you’ll only be rejected anyway


and it’s not when a spindly dude

in the beigest anorak ever

crawls out from under the bus stop bench,

takes a pair of women’s knickers out of said anorak’s pocket

and offers you a sniff of them –


it’s not even when you look down at a puddle,

at your own bleeding reflection, wondering

what kindship the fellow in the beige anorak sees in you –



the worst part

of it all

is when you tell him:

yeah, sure.

pavement hierarchy


fat people.

fat stupid people.

fat stupid jobless people.

fat stupid jobless people pushing prams.

fat stupid jobless people pushing prams laden with fat stupid kids.

fat stupid jobless people pushing prams laden with fat stupid kids



you want to stand your ground

but since you’ve already committed

several thought crimes

since spotting them

it’s clearly not your ground to stand on:


the kerb beckons for








but next shift? when they spit on you

while you scan their groceries?


the karmic balance will be realigned

or at least knocked back to

whatever position it was


you reckon as

you avoid a car.

Paul Tanner was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Poetry Prize. He is the author of “Shop Talk” (Penniless Press, 2019), “No Refunds” (Alien Buddha Press, 2020) and “Working Class Zero” (Dreich Publications, 2021).




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