Remember, Sir, when I blocked the sink
with paper towels and turned on the tap
and you noticed only when it poured over
the side and splashed on the floor and you swore,
ran over, pulled up your sleeve and plunged
in your arm up to the shoulder, water
cascading down your trousers and shirt?
And that time I saw you outside your house
and you smiled at my surprise; I hadn’t
imagined you out of school, least of all
washing your car was it, or trimming the hedge.
Remember photosynthesis, when,
with a rubber band we attached our two slides
with paper, a circle cut out, to a leaf
in a bush on the field for 24 hours – well,
me and Howard came early to school
and moved everyone else’s to a nearby leaf
so that when we did the experiment,
ours was the only leaf that changed colour.
Yates has done something right for a change,
you said, and it felt good to hear you say that.
And Andy Gunn, sitting across the bench,
getting me to blow through my Mick Jagger lips,
keeping them loose so they would flap like a horse’s
and he could glimpse my teeth appear, disappear,
appear like teeth in a flicker book, cartoon teeth.
Cliff Yates is from Birmingham. He has published nine books and chapbooks of poetry including Henry’s Clock, winner of the Aldeburgh prize. A New and Selected Poems is forthcoming from Smith/Doorstop.