Walpole Rollerdrome, 1981

At the gate, turn in, skate the potholes,
slicing folds of chicken-wire, to carrot-shed,
Alsatian, straining at a metal leash.
Skate past the long, long ditch of water, once iced with murder,
now rusting engines and combine harvester,
to distant disco lights, to thump and boot and wheel
and freedom, tightly strapped upon your feet,
to sweat, on plastic wheels,
to short skirts and bra-straps, to snag-a-booth and marvel
at the speeding six-foot boys with gold rings and open shirts
and cigarettes
and fists.

Whose girl is she, the redhead roller on her silver wheels,
tight turtle-neck and tighter jeans
and sweat-patch shoulders, like angel wings?
Is this a Love Thing?
a Tainted Love?
a Just Canโ€™t Get Enough thing?
She glances as we carve the stops, tracing our s-shapes in reverse,
crouch-rolling, one leg stretched out, to catch her eye,
and risk our knuckles.

The rink is heating up, with drive-bys and scuffs,
and water dripping from the walls into tins of fizzy drink
and onion-breath, the mist of Friday night kisses.
In the car-park: cans,
supermarket lager and heavy perfume,
breasts everywhere, exposed to freezing fenwinds,
and owls screeching banshee promises
between grain and nitrogen, and the march of pylons.

Back inside, through the adolescent shimmer-curtain,
to corner booths flash-full of ultra-violet teeth,
and clumsy, tongue-filled conjugations,
to bunk-ups, burgers and the jousting challenges of racing lads
who came on muddy motorbikes, who live in sheds
full of crumpled stock cars and grab-a-girl fumbles.
We roll, electric, to the last slow-skate,
to sweat that tastes of deodorant, in the loos,
and the embarrassment of pick-ups
and hooting dad-cabs.

Street lights string amber along the river.
The red top-light on Kingโ€™s Lynnโ€™s shadowed silo
calls its warning to low-flying geese.
Back to town, and the brewing scent of sugar,
the sweet, brown foam of the factory, leaks into the car,
mixed with the tang of vinegar and lust on teenage fingers,
turning excitement into salt.

 

 

Jonathan Croose lives between the edges of Dartmoor and the flatlands of his native Norfolk. His poetry has been published by The Bangor Literary Journal, Spelt, Poetry and Covid, Poetry 24, Word Bin, Places of Poetry and Loud Coffee Press.