Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Dactyl, Dawntreader,Lunar Poetry, New Madrid Journal, Popshot, Prole, Revival, The Brain of Forgetting and The Stony ThursdayBook magazines, in e-magazines and anthologies.
Last time I opened the box, a hint arose
of the Ivoire that soused your first letter,
exciting and embarrassing me at work:
now, only old paper’s mustiness.
A glance across a room began it,
then exchanges: words; a poem
under my door, and in return; letters –
each of us in pain, seeking comfort.
The morning I escaped with you to Alderley
we meandered through the spring-green wood
above the bouldery cascade of sand,
not touching, unsure how close we should be.
All too soon our commitments drew us
back from the Edge, frustrated, leaving
the hinterland unexplored. Love?
I never quite found out, unhappily
tied by convention and too numbed to hulk
my muscles and break free, save vicariously
through pen and ink. ‘Friend for life’, you wrote –
but ‘life’ turned out judicial, not literal.
I can’t leave these letters. When I’m gone,
the children sorting out my stuff might scuffle
through these leaves, vividly imagining
what could have happened, not what did.
So today the shredder whines and overheats.
Your sentences become indecipherable
strips – judges’ wig-rolls tangling in the bin.
Tomorrow’s when the bin-men come.
Always at the end of our road, waiting,
his silhouette – a figure or a figment –
whether I’d headed straight home from school
or zigzagged through the backstreets.
I used to watch to see which route he’d take
and take another, hang around shops – anything
not to be caught alone.
As big for his age as I was small,
he’d never needed to hit:
threats were enough to make me blub
and enable him to strut.
Decades on, another from his tribe
is crushing my self-belief.
All I know, all the skills I’ve learned,
can’t stop his weaselly eyes inducing in me
a rabbit’s freeze.
Summoned, I have to face this beast. Again
I remind myself of a dragon on a hill, the dread
of villagers below, and a boy climbing up to find
merely a purring mite he could shoulder home.
Untrustingly, I force foot past foot
up the stairs towards his door.
Bloody Monday, Derry
i.m. Brian Friel, and remembering a performance of The Freedom of the City at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin
A bit of a lark,
the three arrivals from the street
making merry in the mayor’s parlour,
drinking whiskey and sherry,
as protesters in Guildhall Square flee
water cannon, rubber bullets
and CS gas.
demands they lay down their arms
and leave. Hands up, trusting,
they emerge to an unlit stage,
save for spotlights on their faces,
till rifles crack
and all goes black.
In the shocking dark
there’s time to dab tears away
before the living dead,
but not the Sunday dead,
beamingly revive and bow
to a huge explosion