You wonder at the end if you’ll still be friends
with the plumbing and its works,
totting up the extra costs of putting off work,
by not wanting to know, until your ache
wakes your wife at dawn.
To subdue it, try wearing your self-assurance
like known clothes pushed
to the back of a corner cupboard, to see
whether they still fit, or will stare at you
from a dreadful shelf,
or muster up the old books, yellowing like skin
as if each opening, even oddly smelly,
shows you can always go back: but
it’s your life that has false-started, and there’s
the race running without you.
So, you win a free ticket to the plumbing ward
where everyone’s betting like veterans,
ticking handicaps, form and the going,
clutching their odds-on, outsider slips
for the MRI’s photo finish.
Then you take a blunt knife to cut
diagonally through the search engines
working the countless Greek locutions
for that eureka scoop that will make
a painstaking artisan of you.
Home later, the moon uncannily high
on a strange night, you awake
and fingerpick an old Bert Jansch number,
a clean forgotten order of cogs, hearing
the buried song of wrenches.
Then you know how to be friends with
the body’s tyranny. You think of that
back in bed when her eyes find you
and you work to deliver your aching love
to her warm, forgiving mouth.
Ghost writer by Christopher M. James won 1st Prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2019) judged by Oz Hardwick.
Christopher M. James, a dual British/French national, grew up in West London and pursued a career in Human Resources before recently retiring. In the last two years, he has been a prize winner in several competitions (Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Hanna Greally…), notably winning the Maria Edgeworth Literary award and the Bailieborough Poetry Prize in 2019, and the Earlyworks Poetry Prize in 2018. He has also been published in a variety of anthologies (Live Canon, WoLF, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Verve …). He is married and lives in Jouy-en-Josas, France.