Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010

Down the Local

by Max Hawker

Immersion’s knackered, but we’re good here.
The King George pipes out our heat,
rations it through the masses,
licking it from the sweat of beefy blokes
and fake tan slick on chubby birds.
The lung-heaving bass strums eroded speakers
flanking a gibbering live band -
the frontman hunched over a lacy mike
and four-foot stand. He twitches a craggy face,
shakes tawny hair, squawks ‘Hotel California’
to a roomful of ears half-bitten
in escaping conversation. Our hearing scrunches sound
into watery bomber jacket pockets of laughter,
drum, and bar orders.
Some old girls dance about in giggling renditions
of their younger selves, eyeing up the teenage lads,
glutting on the mock attention.
Forearms fused to honeyed tables -
the men digest their flaxen phlegm,
glugging pints, heavy feet sinking
into scabby coves of carpet.
Clacking in the ashy corner,
people gorge the games machine with coins
and stub the screen in answer to its enquiries
on ‘Entertainment’, ‘Sport’ and ‘History’.
A pool table teeters toward a nearby window,
locked agelessly to chalk drifts
and beer stain circles. The lads around it laugh,
lark with the cues, and joke with the bargirl
who comes for their glasses -
‘Sweet face…perky tits…tight arse’ -
you can smell their salty, husky eyes.
‘Last orders!’ soon rolls.
We prise our bodies past saloon doors
away from territorial warmth. Severed
in the aluminium night I taste the scent of saline piss
washing over a barrier reef of fag butts
and citrus throw-up.
As lighters gouge fire from the black I walk and walk,
ingested in the city sirens.

Added: 19.04.2010