His story


A vague memory
of being an expert –
in what, he couldn’t say.

Someone who didn’t stare
at fields, grey torn pages,
adults with dirty secrets. 

He wrote complicated
volumes – remembering
just this:

“As written, nothing makes sense. I know what it means;
lost time and strength show I can’t hope to speak truth.”

A murder story – detectives planning the killings. 

Political cover, social status, full cupboards –
everything needed for a life of crime. 

Voting makes no difference. Once there were  countries, but they stopped efficient leisure, movement of slaves, poisoned meats.

All that’s left are stamp albums, with golds and purples, chocolate names. 

Workers in dying areas – who once made the volumes – thrown into gravel pits, forced to crawl up pylons. 

Few understood the crimes.   

After solving those, he was 
praised, promoted, awarded 
every literary prize – adapted 
by the BBC – then invited  to
fornicate with a pub fireplace
or plunge down to an ocean’s 
bed and await the wreckage.

On the surface, with binoculars,   
exhausting bird-watching optics,   
the approaching cliffs are combed   
in microscopic detail. 

No one onboard seems worried.

But they loom higher –
and the sight is gorgeous –  
every gemstone glittering, 
every species desporting itself 
in full extinction glory. 


It’s always the same, your utopian dreams;
golden wings flying to crystal horizons.
Here’s a multi-storey carpark, old urine,
many a child dragged from a car into
one of the shops – the mother now dead –
you can’t forget how those early shopping
centres seemed magical – overheated – even
old people dropping to their knees and crying
at the plenitude. Home to see dad’s war films,
their theme tunes whistled by an entire street –
utter nonsense – but the lack of deadening
variety was a strength – fantastic to have
bad pubs, no indoctrination of perfection.

In Russian literature, you sit in a room
so many years later, remember an angel
you failed to sleep with – the one who
eloped with her private tutor then got
ravished by seven drunken serfs. This
doesn’t work in Stevenage, Hatfield or
Welwyn Garden City. For starters, there
aren’t spaces left on the map – no canals,
no sempiternal mists to hide lurkers plus
our culture wouldn’t allow us. Laughing
at bad dinners and dictatorial women in
purple irradiated dresses – teeth which
drag all the air away – that’s England.

I must admit, I followed her home;
the first time she walked back alone –
it was my daughter – I could have
cried at her serious look, checking
each road, every car, looking straight
ahead, refusing even to talk to some
friends she passed. There’s nothing
better than simplicity, the moment
all the complexity dies away to show
structure and meaning. You can’t hold
it though, thank goodness, its fading
is the purpose. How you love never
lasts, somehow another way arrives.


It has to be admitted – I was hellishly unpopular, at both school and ‘the university’.

My presence caused constant outrage.

Petitions, demonstrations – and outbreaks of violence, in my vicinity – convince me I was a menace – to myself and the wider ‘community’.

At school, there was a timed event, to see who could escape my company the fastest.

A complicated system of semaphore messaging – organised by the science masters – signalled my imminent arrival.

Competitors on the starting line awaited the first sight of my flared trousers and flapping tie.


I remained oblivious – imagining myself one of the school’s only pupils.

Only at Prize Day – when I entered the hall and triggered a calamitous rush for the exits, causing several deaths – did the truth strike me.

I arrived at the university forewarned – and to little avail.

The authorities systematically raised buildings to the ground, whenever I dared stroll its delightful streets.

A scene worthy of the Blitz met my weary steps – gothic splendours, venerable bridges and tremulous towers, all collapsing round me.

Even ‘Professors of Geography’ were dismayed, though thankful that their despised subject now assumed some importance.

Luckily, I was refused an academic career, on the grounds that tenure would be fatal.


People from the past, kicking at my heart.
Lions in multiple-story car parks, they
roar in solitude – then rip me apart.
So much beauty, far deadlier than none.
Mismatching within – boiling over.
Everything as a child seems unearned;
I never thought it was for those beyond
any thanks – for them to get joy in mine.




Paul Sutton

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