There is sense in cemeteries and symmetry
in gravestones. The cross is a puzzle of stations
but when I link the points I find flags,
badges, shields, coffins.
The workshop could be replanted with offcuts,
try oak Mr Williams grins. Stable for the table.
He traces calloused fingertips on a spiderweb grain.
Black ash is cheap and cheerless.
He shows me how to saw odd angles so they sleep
as snug as dovetails, then preaches to the class
of my dedication: lathing late, sanding all spring.
Diligence makes the best bookcase.
He never asks to see my plans, discerns cab’net
when I mumble casket. He signs a yellow slip
so I can work through lunch drawing and etch
three chalky white letters on the lid.
Dad is in the Head’s office all afternoon,
loudly warning my mother I’m macabre. He nods,
she sobs and my name is shadowed out from
the school show brochures in thick marker.
Sir wouldn’t look at me the Saturday,
my brother and me screwed on brass handles
and trudged it home. It was David’s idea to take it
to the stadium, prop it against the Railway Stand
to take turns stealing glances at the game
but men touched the casket like mourners
as we passed, offering to shoulder the weight.
‘A coffin’s not as heavy as a death,’ said a voice
outside the Bull’s Head and he lay a folded scarf
inside the lid. Pin badges and pennants and papers
thrown in as the landlord sang sermons. I rang
the pub bell’s lonely chime as the procession filed away.
People eddied in the swell outside the ground
rolling against the metal gates in grumbling waves
until sirens stanched the flow. Helicopters hummed
all evening and the heat dripped out the day.
While the weatherman’s arm covered the Potteries
from overnight storms, Mum warned me not to sleep
through my alarm. Her voice smoothed silences
dug up by news footage of a match day melee.
I found photos of the coffin and the crowds
in all but one of the Sundays and read reports
of riots until the print was fat with rain.
I posted the puddles with each paper.
They hadn’t even mentioned my name.
There was nothing noted of how I’d mixed ink
with filler to cover the screw holes,
contoured the edges so it’d be lighter.
Outside the club is an ashen mound. A handful
of black sawdust, weightless and portentous.
A coffin is not as heavy as a death.