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Cliff Yates


Too early at the Custard Factory
for the lunch and too late for breakfast,
the towpath’s closed at Broad Street, the Ikon
galleries are shut, and it doesn’t look good
for our Digbeth jerry can hardware shop
but dodge between buildings
more or less opposite the bus station
for the five workmen and mini digger
laying paving in a dream, the foreman
on his knees, smoothing sand with bare hands
in front of the thirty-foot GARAGE DOORS
brick wall and, half-way up, the blue sign
          No lifting
          over this
the dark green canister, the red board –
a composition, a film set, abstract painting.
All over Brum they’re laying new paving.



A Sheet of Miscellaneous Studies

and back of Birmingham town hall
in the Museum & Art Gallery,
Leonardo’s drawings
A Horse Divided by Lines
A Deluge, The Bones of the Hand

while in the basement, Lucy Gunning
in the red dress, still climbing
along her skirting, wardrobe,
chest of drawers, shelving, door frame…

That time in Paris when you touched
the Van Gogh, sensed the paint’s thickness
The Fall of Light on a Face
You’ll never be that close again



Brum, 11 June 2019

Three teapots between us, one for hot water,
white enamel, grey, and the red –
if we stole two, we’d leave them the red

the Gas Hall shut between exhibitions
next it’s Fifty Years of Black Sabbath,
twelve quid and booking compulsory, a joke

they demolished back-to-backs
to build Corporation Street
and no record of what people said

Carhartt cap and Carhartt trousers,
you’re a walking advert     I know
and neither of us have an umbrella

Saturday it’s Eurostar but tonight
it’s the family bag of crisps, the plateful of rice
and swearing at the telly, and remember

buildings hold memories, like our place –
paint the walls, move the furniture, start over 
‘You were always chewing, I remember’


Awareness Through Movement
(‘Without movement life is unthinkable.’ –Moshe Feldenkrais)

The fish here is good, you don’t have to
have it battered you can have it grilled
I’m talking too fast, aren’t I?

We’re a week early for the festival
but timed it just right for the parade
they may or may not have the horse

It’s a high ceiling and the heater’s on the stage
Your lungs go to the bottom of your rib cage
It’s easy to forget that    I’m not sure I knew
They’re three-dimensional

I think I’m getting the hang of this
there’s music rehearsing downstairs
that’s not as bad as the fire alarm

The tea tastes of bleach we buy plastic
bottles of water from the Co-op
then discover that if you run the tap
it’s not so bad

You’re from Okehampton
that’s near Sheepwash, isn’t it?
Usually it’s my dad here, the boy said,
and gave us a free small lemon



Copyright © Cliff Yates, 2019