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My England

Poet: Dave Wakely

I sometimes catch it in the softest glimpses,
The hints of red emulsion left under yellowing gloss.
In souvenirs of love affairs that sparked as brief as
Safety matches in a windswept garden,
Or a lavender beret glimpsed through a crowd
On a man who isn’t quite the one we buried.
Or else in the choruses of old songs heard from passing cars,
Half-remembered accompaniments to half-forgotten marches,
The banners and the slogans lost with their causes.

Or else it comes in sharp reminders: the protest steward’s lanyard
Still hanging from the spare-room door handle,
The washed-out union tea-towel draped over the proving dough.
The hamster paw skeleton that breaks the surface
Whenever the dog digs under the rhododendrons.

My England still exists in buried places –
In festival photographs three layers deep on dusty pinboards
And two-coloured dusters torn from a rainbow t-shirt,
Daydreams forsaken like unfashionable toys.
They’re yesterday’s tomorrows now. First drafts of prologues
To unperformed plays, ticket stubs for journeys not taken
On branch lines to new homes that we never built.
A ghost-town cinema’s Coming Soon posters
For films that never played, their promise as
Faded as a shuttered gay bar’s purple stamp
On a beer-soaked, hungover hand.

Futures not lived like lint-coated peppermints in a mothballed jacket pocket,
Anguishes abandoned like burned-out cars.
Distant now as a housemartin’s call from a tower-block’s eaves,
Faint and faraway as starlight.

Raised in London, Dave Wakely has worked as a musician, university administrator, poetry librarian, and editor. Since completing a Creative Writing MA, his writing has appeared in Ambit, Chelsea Station, Fictive Dream, Glitterwolf, Holdfast, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, Prole, Shooter, Token and Truffle Mag, amongst others. One of the organisers of Milton Keynes Literature Festival, he lives in Buckinghamshire with his husband and too many books, CDs and guitars. He tweets as @theverbalist.

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