‘The Hoops’ by David Wheatley

The Hoops 

An attempted father-in-law




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.  





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. 





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








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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