Listen to 'Peeling'
From And in Here, the Menagerie, Templar Poetry, 2007
Reprinted in the Forward Book of Poetry 2008
Highly Commended in the 2008 Forward Prize for Poetry
One potato. Four minutes late:
you lost your car in a sea of cars.
Two potato. Five minutes:
the dark and the frost beat you to it –
it took a while to get the old girl started.
Three potato. Six minutes:
you hit a rabbit, had to get out,
check the bumper, check the rabbit.
She didn’t want to start again.
Four. Seven minutes late:
braking on black ice you slid
like butter on a hot bonnet
into the back of a Merc; you are
exchanging details with a beautiful woman.
Five potato. Eight minutes:
you swerved and lost control.
Your car is wrecked, being towed,
your phone – you left it in the office,
the rabbit’s dead, the other car’s totalled,
torn wide open like a corned-beef tin.
Six potato. Nine minutes:
the two cars are twisted
round each other like sweetie wrappers.
You are still trapped inside
while firemen try to cut you out.
They cannot hear above the screaming
metal, you begging them to call me.
Seven potato. Ten minutes:
no one else was there when it happened,
no one saw you slither from the road
in disastrous elegance. You are trapped,
your phone…you left it in the office.
No other cars pass, not a soul,
not even the rabbit sees you lying
unconscious. No one will find you until…
More. More than ten minutes late:
there has been a freak landslide,
the cars are pinned together
and the woman in the Merc – no,
an earthquake, an explosion,
the next ice-age – a meteor
has torn the tarmac from beneath you.
The firemen can't get to your car,
the frost, corned-beef, the rabbit, you are –
the phone rings, the knife slips on wet peel,
slices my finger with ease; the taste
is sweet, warm, fast on my lips,
as I walk to the phone, lift the receiver.