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‘The Hoops’ by David Wheatley

The Hoops 

An attempted father-in-law

 

1

 

But tell me, how did you  

die most often: lost 

 

at sea, in a train crash? 

Accounts and even 

 

your name would vary 

from year to year until 

 

what with tale upon tale 

of you spun by one 

 

with only your staying

lost at heart  

 

it must have seemed

the reasonable thing

 

to resort – no, really –

to a death of your own.  

 

 

2

 

Hysterical use of

the second-person:

 

it’s just a convention; 

an elegy is a poem 

 

involving an absence 

drawn from life.  

 

Reliquary of

guessed-at gestures 

 

and a stage-set

of 70s Wishaw

 

assembled in the dark – 

a milk bottle top’s 

 

curled lip

moustachioed with ice 

 

where the boots pass 

in the morning,

 

the scoured doorstep 

sunk at its centre 

 

like a pillow 

and soft enough 

 

for the wee dog 

unwoken by 

 

your tread. 

 

 

3

 

The absent take

up so much more

 

space than the quick   

selfishly expand 

 

to fill any available

void we’d been

 

keeping for you 

footballer     soldier 

 

shop steward   

this train of thought

 

divides over three

countries in Glasgow   

 

Belfast     Burnley      

a beau on a bike 

 

ducked down a side-

street     a Scotsman 

 

at large with 

a demobbed 

 

squaddie’s bravado:  

Erin go Bragh

 

on the karaoke 

machine if you  

 

fancy a sing-

along and A don’t

 

give a damn

tae whit place

 

ye belang

 

 

 

A peewit over

Belfast Lough  

 

tunes and untunes

a gibbering walkie- 

 

talkie but who 

is copying who 

 

a patrol’s headlights

return a cat’s eye-   

 

lasers and in that

moment become

 

the hunted while 

the peewit cries

 

tewit-weet-

weet-tew

 

 

5

 

Curious as to your

genetic make-up

 

skin tone freckles

and other small habits

 

propensity to whistle

or hum but lacking

 

a primary witness

we have explored  

 

other avenues 

and call in evidence 

 

(we will know you 

when we see him)

 

one as yet 

in a warm darkness

 

whose line in 

mimicry of you 

 

is billed to astound. 

 

 

 

All through the game I   

see you now playing 

 

at Parkhead  

feet would be stamping  

 

there would be no

hearing your own

 

name on the pitch 

where you ran 

 

for the one free space

ahead and rose for 

 

the ball as though  

jumping through hoops

 

 

i.m. Robert Canavan

 

 

David Wheatley’s new collection The President of Planet Earth will appear from Carcanet in 2017.

 

 

Image credit: Kunotoro

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