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Only there, the afternoons could suddenly pause…
Carol Ann Duffy, ‘Stafford Afternoons’



I try to imagine it differently, coming back to this town,
its streets the same except for shops unemptied,
a book store not bought out by Waterstones,

or the Ancient High House not leaning forwards,
its bulging Elizabethan plaster and timberwork.
But as the train shuttles down the West Coast mainline

and I shift my head to gaze into the gloaming outside –
a paperback of Acrimony on the table to pass the time;
the girl opposite eyeing it with suspicion or interest –

I’m woken by the town’s lit-up landmark; that castle
built from wood, then stone, then again and again
until it was left in the ruins that remain and its stock

of earthworks. The station’s empty in pools of orange
light. This, I think to myself, won’t be the last time
I wander bleary-eyed past the silence of the Bird in Hand,

a bunch of kids skittering their BMXs round McDonalds
or the small miracle of a bargain shop where, for years,
everything’s been ‘Going Going Going’

though, for a second there, I almost considered turning off
to Joxer Brady’s, even The Coach, but every time I just
drag my heels past, onto the waiting shadow of the night bus.



poem by Ben Wilkinson; first published in Poetry London (No.61, October 2008)

Comments

Cyan said…
“Only there, the afternoons could suddenly pause”
It impresses me so much.
May I congratulate you Ben on an excellent piece of writing. You are doing all right.
I recently visited the High Street in the Sussex market town in which I grew up, and all I recognised from my childhood were the rooftops. Below the familiar tiles, one in three shops were closed down and the main attraction was the brash orange of Iceland. Never mind.
Michelle said…
this is a beautiful poem

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About the Author

Welcome to the website of the English poet and critic, Ben Wilkinson.
Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He received his first degree from the University of Sheffield, and holds an MA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Poetry Business Competition and a 2014 Northern Writers' Award
His debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, appeared from Seren Books in February 2018.
He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool Football Club fan, and among other things he works as poetry critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. You can find many of his reviews on this site.
To contact Ben about readings, workshops, or for any other enquiries, you can drop him a line at benwilko(at sign)gmail.com. Unfortunately, I am not able to consider unsolicited requests from authors for book reviews.

You can follow Ben on Twitter - @BenWilko85 - and on Facebook.

You can find B…