The Time-served Welder

A hammer rings awa’ beyond the Clyde.
The drunk man pauses,
fistful of chips half-raised to gub.
Although it’s decades since the clang and clatter
of welders turning sheet steel into ships
snuffed out,
for half a minute he feels gallus.
No wife, no weans, a wage.
His future shining like the Kyles of Bute.

Across the street a chancer’s selling watches
no-one’s buying.
Folk going nowhere gather
to heckle or to hear the patter
that swerves and dives through Govan drizzle:
a tattered, rusty, diamond-spattered net
to catch the shoppers and the schoolkids going home.
Words tickle some,
but they can thrust and cut,
pinion the timid, pondering a safe response.
Don’t falter or this crowd’ll have your guts
for haggis suppers.

Metal strikes distant metal
and the chime reverberates across grey water.
The drunk man rouses
and remembers that he’s in another century.
It’s only demolition over Partick way.
Waiting to cross the road,
his chips fall in the gutter so he hunkers down
to pick them up.
A passing taxi hoots and he falls back,
arse in a puddle.

A neck-to-knee Cath Kidstoned woman herds
her mini-Bodened daughters round his wreck.
A student in a burkha stoops to help him up.
He hirples home, late for his tea,
as if it matters.

Isabel Miles