P. W. Bridgman

P. W. Bridgman

P.W. Bridgman's most recent book is A Lamb: Poems (Ekstasis Editions, 2018).

Graces
Wednesday, 06 May 2020 22:08

Graces

Published in Poetry

Graces

by P. W. Bridgman

In the dying light, as the moon drifts fully behind the casement’s edge,
Ted and Grace’s little one drifts too: from a fitful wakefulness,
at last and finally to a placid sleep.

Somnolence settles upon him like a blessing, like a light snowfall,
like the blanket’s satin border resting soft against his rosy cheek.
The boy’s breathing settles too, becoming gently rhythmic,
quietly shushing away their cares with every tender inhalation
and exhalation.

This day’s nightly vigil now complete, Ted and Grace
exchange a glance and rise from the foot of his bed,
careful not to disturb him.

As she pads softly toward the door, he bends down,
kisses the sleeping boy’s forehead, gently pulls back the fingers
of his five-year-old hand—clutched close to his little heart—
and removes the talisman, the charm without which
this child cannot descend into dreamland.

Ted flattens and smooths the crumpled £50 banknote,
then returns it to its special place on the bedside table,
propped up against the yellow butterfly lamp.

The Queen smiles wanly at the wall.
It is entrepreneur Boulton and engineer Watt on the obverse
who greet the boy each day when morning’s first light
floods the room and sleep begins to fall from his eyes.

He knows their names, just as he knows that
it is Jane Austen who graces the lowly £10 note,
and Elizabeth Fry who graces the more lowly £5,
and Beatrix Potter who graces the still more lowly 50p coin.

Just as he knows that his father’s name proudly
graces the letterhead of a merchant bank,

and that his mother’s
graces the door
of… er…

of the… er…,

of the nurse’s room at school.

The Empty Chair Makes The Widow Cry
Wednesday, 08 April 2020 07:44

The Empty Chair Makes The Widow Cry

Published in Poetry

The Empty Chair Makes The Widow Cry

by P. W. Bridgman

“The empty chair makes the widow cry, etc.
To the auctioneer it’s just a cheap chair.”1

Sarah had skirted ’round the newly empty chair every day
for weeks, yet nothing seemed to get any better
(despite what others had to say).

She couldn’t manage to get her-
self out of her bed till half-ten
most mornings. Came the first letter

from the bank. It went unanswered. Then
the second, its threats more pointed. Unanswered too.
Sarah also declined to open her door to men

who knocked roughly. If it was true
that the bank had now engaged Hooke the bailiff,
so be it, she’d just out-wait him. “Do

yer worst. Carrys me off to gaol if
youse must,” she complained under her breath,
looking aghast at the newest, spotty trail of

piss that gave away her hiding place beneath the stair. With
all that fearsome bashing and shouting,
it was little wonder. Dunning men frightened her to death,

this one’s loud knocks relentless, well after midnight. No doubting
he’d be back. It must be Hooke. Sarah couldn’t any longer take the risk
of being seen, so there’d be no more work, not one more outing

to the market or to Bodgers for toast and tea. “Whisk
me away in a coppers’ waggon, they would, given the chance.
I’d be manhandled and frisked

like a criminal,” she muttered to no one. Allowing herself a rare glance
at the empty chair, she remarked again his imprint,
still visible in the cushion; him gone forever by sorry happenchance.

No brass coming in now from the house cleaning. Desperate. Dead skint.
Sarah landlocked in a tiny flat in Dunsany Street
without a crust, paralysed by grief and beset by a bank that didn’t

have a dram, a single dram, of human decency. Ends couldn’t meet
before. Her Sam, and now her Neddy, gone from her, from all of us.
Sarah misses Neddy’s brave “Hulloo!” ringing through Dunsany Street,

his face blackened, his pay packet held high. She misses her little nautilus,
scrubbed pink and curled in his dead father’s chair, asleep after his bath.
She yearns to wash again the soot from his feet, his hair. “God love us!”

But, truly, does He? Neddy’s footfalls now vanished from the towpath,
from Dunsany Street, from this room. From the confessional every week.
One paltry year as a sweep’s apprentice. And now this, the aftermath.

Trapped and suffocated by debris falling down a flue. Doublespeak
and prevarication from Mr. Kidney, the master sweep. Where to turn?
“Lodged in a chimney’s breast, for God’s sake? Get him out!” she shrieked.

Ash to ash to ash it goes, as Sarah knows. So that fires may burn
brightly and warm the tired, stocking’d feet of bankers at day’s end,
“others must plays their parts and takes their turns.”

        When Hooke arrived, writ of fieri facias in hand, he found Sarah
               under the stair.
        After bashing in the door at dawn, he saw a telltale sign
               that led him there.
        He even considered having his way with her, did Hooke,
              on the banker’s dare,
        He thought again when his boiled eyes met Sarah’s wary and
              defiant glare.

Hooke led her out, alright. And to the workhouse at Wapping to fend
as she might. Hard cheese, too, for the bank. The auctioneer frowned:
Not enough of worth, he said, to cover the balance owing. In the end

just some clothing, a few sticks of furniture, her ring. Fetched £9
and sixpence (net of the auctioneer’s fee) on an £11 debt.
The banker and the auctioneer agreed it was a sorry showing all round.

i.m. Edmund Livesay Scullion, born 25.xii.1840, died 17.viii.1851
Sam Scullion, born 14.ii.1799, died 5.vii.1850 (his father)
Sarah Livesay, born 30.vi.1807, died 25.xi.1851 (his mother)
Requiescant in pace.

1 from part 11 of Elizabeth Smart’s The Assumption of the Rogues & Rascals (London: Jonathan Cape/Polytantric Press, 1978).

The image is The Little Chimney Sweep by Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1883.

Brexit Music
Monday, 02 March 2020 12:58

Brexit Music

Published in Poetry

Brexit Music 

(After Louis MacNeice)

by P. W. Bridgman

It’s no go the cavernous yawns, its no go sermons in Chinglish.
All we want is a Sunday jaunt to a bar where the barmaids aren’t Polish.
Young Vicar Ng’s lost half the flock; his wife’s gone over to Rome.
After 17 hours of confessing (the cow!), the Catholics sent her back home.

Bridie MacGowan—the widow of Nolan—has lately been feeling tingles.
That Maltese man with the Vauxhall van’s been bringing her roses and Pringles.
Could it be love from heaven above’s got Bridie so woozy and squirmy?
More likely than not it’s herpes she’s caught. The man with the van’s got shingles.

It’s no go national debt, it’s no go climbing inflation,
All we want is a flag to wave and an end to immigration.

‘Measure for measure, we’re all better off,’ says carpenter Sid to Peter.
‘There’s something ethereal about the imperial (but I’d trade them my pint for their litre).’

It’s no go revolting cheeses, it’s no go veal blanquette.
All I want, for the love of Jesus, are a Plowman’s and Vogue cigarette.

Iskander Jameel and his lovely wife Lil’ were returning to London from Durban.
They were held for a day at Heathrow they say. Something to do with his turban.
‘We’re English you know,’ they told Passport Control. ‘Our parents were born in Stevenage.’
The officer (sceptical) applied cream (antiseptical) to his hands after searching their baggage.

It’s no go to Strasbourg courts, it’s no go Brussels handouts.
All we want for our restaurants is a tariff on underpriced sprouts.

Mr McAvity went for a stroll in the Edgware, past ghutras and hookahs.
‘This isn’t my England,’ he thought to himself, a-tremble with fears of bazookas.
Hurrying back, he bumped into Kala, the nurse who had cared for his daughter.
He couldn’t quite see why this girl from Fiji should be different, yet somehow she ought to.

It’s no go tax increases, its no go NHS cuts.
All we want is a government powered by ether, phlogiston and nuts.

It’s no go the caravan holidays, simplified crossings at Dover.
It’s no go the wines from Bordeaux, packed tight in the boot of the Rover.
It’s no go the cheery ‘Allo!’ when arriving at Plage de la Baule.
All we seek is to stay for a week every year ’till we’re sick of Blackpool.

It’s no go to liberal myths, it’s no go ethnicity.
Wide open doors bring civil wars and economic adversity.

The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.