Bob the Fish

Windows steamed
with blinks of bitter exhales –
Bob breathes
like he drinks –
gulps in goldfish gasps,
gawps, doh say a word.
The old naval pugilist
teks ‘is time over last ‘alf
as ‘is wench meks tay.

Down the Exchange
them baked on Batham’s.
The players,
who skeleton
the pub daily,
pack up deck and crib board –
Cheers Bob, y’am a good’un.

‘E’s sound, our Bob,
‘e ‘elps John,
ya know,
John with Parkinson’s,
‘e ‘elps ‘im down
the allotments.

Ritual everyday,
bobs to and from the taps
to sup,
rolls slug-sized cigarettes
wears filthy shorts
through autumn’s bite.

Ernie studies the form –
Bob, the window.
They nod,
sit at opposite ends,
doh spayke
but exchange cards each Christmas.

‘E paled that Polak
next door, day ‘e?
Gid ‘im a corkwinder
wi’ a 4×4,
said ‘e med too much noise,
gorr’im right to the core.

When young McKain’s son
‘ad ‘is fust bab
everyone stuck a quid
in ‘is collection.
Bob knew ‘im as a nippa,
only tipped ‘is glass.

Soul as grey as ‘is ‘air,
there’s a Mild behind the bar
for tendin’
Leanne’s baskets
when ‘er was down in Burnham.
An’ we all gerr’im one in
’cause ‘e onny ‘as two
before gooin’ ‘ome
to tend to mom.

We all come and go ‘ere,
slipping in and out
in our suppin’.

Between blinks
I see
summat savage
oilslicked on iris.

R. M. Francis is a poet from the Black Country, researching his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton. His chapbook, Transitions, was published by The Black Light Engine Room in 2015. Two further pamphlets, Orpheus (Lapwing Publications) and Transform (A Swift Exit Press) are due out soon. Find him on Facebook:

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