Issue 21: Stuart Pickford


Fuad’s road bike is locked to the drainpipe

outside the main gates. He loves deadlocks,

has three bolts and a chain on his front door.

Some mornings he tells me how many miles

have fallen under his wheels to reach the coast,

watching the sea lay wreaths at his feet.

He’s filling what he doesn’t know with facts,

Scarborough bombed in the First World War,

the Blücher stealing its escape from the night.

The essentials: a torch and a fist of keys.

Each door has its personality, needs a twist,

a shoulder—and stale air sags into the corridor.

Around corners, he rummages through the dark.

He has his routine, his order; walks past

the sports hall but won’t go inside till dawn.

Petrol glugs. Hands hammer on doors.

Fuad tries to stop a neighbour striking a match

and letting it drop, as if  showing off to a girl.

From the road, I glimpse a raised arm,

the fuzz of an elbow, part of the lower jaw.

Fluorescent tubes hiss, settle to their task.

Fuad builds the school in blocks of light,

the oblong of the library, the sharp lines

of Maths, Humanities with a touch of his finger.

Hot Tub Music

Up to your neck in it, like in the stocks,

a glass of prosecco, the fizz of the Perseids.

Eyeing up Loch Lomond, the Scottish mist

a topping of suds. A hot tub in the Commons

during the Chilcot debate, swapping your trunks

under the froth. At the Emirates on the centre spot,

Özil knocking it one way and sprinting the other

while the crowd goes wild. A hot tub with six gears

dune bashing in Dubai without slopping a drop,

big-game fishing for sharks on the Great Barrier Reef,

rocketing to the stars for a weekend of golf

at a personally-designed links course on Mars.

Stuart Pickford received a major Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. His collection, The Basics was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection is Swimming with Jellyfish, published in 2017 by smith/doorstop.

Copyright © 2018 by Stuart Pickford, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.