HANK (by Cliff Yates)

for Brendan Cleary

Woke up this morning in Arizona,
a filling station on the highway,
under someone’s pick-up, dismantling the gearbox
which is a joke
because I’m the kind of bloke
who starts looking for the left-handed hammer.

My name is Hank, I smoke roll-ups,
call you ‘Bud’ and have a wife called Gloria
who hangs endless items of clothing
on the washing line out front
when she’s not in the kitchen
singing along to Country and Western
on the radio.

Men just turn up and say, ‘How’s it going Hank?’
I hammer repeatedly on the silencer
pretending I can’t hear,
hoping they will go away
and thinking, ‘Who the hell is this?
What does he know
about me that I don’t know?’

I inspected the washing, worked out
that we have eight children
between two and sixteen. Also,
judging from the patches
on the jeans and shirts
and the state of repair of the house,
we’re not rich. And, judging from the way
I’m going at this gear box with a monkey wrench,
not likely to be.


He says something
about the budgie.

They smile.
He is smiling so much
that his cheeks ache.

He crosses his legs
and kicks the budgie
into the fire.

She screams.
It is not
a good start

to the evening.
It is not easy
to make conversation

with charred feathers
about the room.