Issue 22: Paul Batchelor


           After Peter Reading

One funny thing about a university education’s

the unexpected opportunities it will afford you:

in my case, middle-class girls who

(now they tell me) only liked me for my vowels.

One I caught on the bounce between a Crispin & a Tristram

took me home to Littlemiddleshire

only to leave me speechless & alone

with a dull-eyed eau-de-nil cushion fetishist known as ‘Mum’

and port-&-Stilton Daddy who

wouldn’t say he was prejudiced, not at all,

just didn’t like Asians

or Socialists — and just did like traction engines,

battle reenactments, and skiffle music. ‘Paul,

when you say English Revolution,

are you referring to the Civil War?

Gosh. And is that what you write about?’ Still

I put up with it. It must be love.

An Introduction to Poetry

Here’s an oldie but a goodie:

I’m twelve years old and Mr Foster’s reading us a poem —

except it’s not a poem, it’s the lyrics

to ‘The Living Years’

by Mike and the Mechanics.

I know the song. It’s one of Dad’s favourites.

I know it from the spasming synth intro

to the unbelievably cheesy child-choir finale,

but I string Mr Foster along,

discussing imagery & aphorism

before I heave a sigh and ask

couldn’t he just have showed us a real poem

instead of ‘The Living Years’

by Mike and the Mechanics?

He glances at the clock & licks his teeth.

But who’s to say it’s not a poem?

My reply includes the adjective platitudinous.

(I had access to Reader’s Digest

and had enriched my vocabulary.)

That term’s report damned me for life:

Quite bright. Not university material.

My parents take it badly: they’ve thrown in their lot

with vague, Heseltinian notions of escape

and so, for reasons I hardly need spell out,

the next twelve years are spent

proving Mr Foster wrong,

the scabby big-eared bastard,

clocking up a first, an MA, and a doctorate fully

funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council...

Life, I see now, is all about

finding a pattern that’s right for you.

I’m going to leave you

in the moth-infested flat I rented while I studied,

where once or twice a week I’d hear

the drunk next door beat up his wife;

then, worse, hear them make up;

then, worse, hear them solemnise

their post-coital intimacies

by playing, at full tilt, till two

or three or four o’clock, ‘The Living Years’

by Mike and the Mechanics.

Paul Batchelor was born in Northumberland. His first book, The Sinking Road, appeared from Bloodaxe in 2008. A chapbook, The Love Darg, appeared from Clutag in 2014. He is Director of Creative Writing at Durham University.

Copyright © 2019 by Paul Batchelor, 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.