Next Door to the Brewery
Often on leaden days, eddies of air
sift hop vapours into this tight room.
It sooths the scald of my dark patch,
settles in the glasses of public houses.
Bitterness is absorbed by harried bodies
tracing their lifelines on grain tables
branded with Olympian rings.
The brewery creates a space, dapples black
the nesting ground of watching seagulls,
hiding human calls with their screams.
A flurry of malted smoke smothers
the possibility of new Subtopian plans.
Wind tours the cracks of winding pipes,
playing jazz symphonies at dawn.
The first to fourth of factory favours.
Others are the illumination of gardens
by a lone spotlight through the dark,
disused warehouses that shelter pigeons
and monolith weathered steel towers
lying flush against the dithers of tricks
and the furtive scurries of prostitutes.
Killing the Horse
It was cold on the streets. They were scattered with trash and us whores,
and the stamping and galloping mare that would graze on the grass
by the station, where spotters film trains. In the shadows we watched,
as she nuzzled the cars, and then ran from the dragon’s red breath.
And the horse was called Lloyds, and her eyes were as round as a coin.
When we reached for a stroke, there was air at our palms not her flesh
but I knew that one day we’d ride away from this bitter, sad place.
She had nothing to sell, so she coyly just batted her eyelids instead.
Then one morning, Matthias the pimp took a sudden dislike
to our cartoon compeer. “It has cursed all our lives,” was his claim,
and he lifted the shotgun he’d nicked from a dealer who’d died,
and he shot at that steed in the neck, just an inch from her mane.
We all screamed as she fell, her presence was calming and chaste.
We could smile as we sold the drab bodies we dragged by a chain.
The random wild violence was soothed by her brooding lost neigh,
And the pimp wore a smile as he watched the horse vomit and writhe.
I saw how he guarded the exits to keep me in hell;
my own personal Cerberus jailing me here.
I reeked of decay, a cut of meat embraced by maggots.
So, I ran to the river and dived down till the stars disappeared.
The Final Whistle
At central station lurching pundits are penned
by barking guards into enclosed lines.
Steel guides them down piss splattered chutes.
They’ve spent their money and maxed their credit cards,
just ten free mobile minutes left and this ticket,
which drags them home despite their need for more.
Cupboards are searched for lager cans and spirits
as sullen wives and partners wait and watch.
The fans borrow some cash to spend on booze from the shop.
A silver ring wraps every raven dreadlock.
He wonders how she sleeps on all that metal.
Perhaps she never sleeps, is never tired,
always has this alert expression in her eyes.
A tray is stacked with rows of fragrant oils.
Eucalyptus, sandalwood and sage
attack his muscles without pity.
She uses the tapotement technique.
Her chopping fingers make him groan.
As he inhales an Indian forest,
he walks around its budding trees.
A Laughing Thrush calls out to him.
He opens his eyes and surveys his masseur.
She questions him but the bird is too loud.
She rubs Myrrh over her palms and
an Arabian veil shimmers across her face.
She pretends this is Ancient Egypt.
A series of corpses are being embalmed.
Her oils prevent their skin from rotting,
later she will wrap them in bandage.
She lists the objects he’ll be buried with:
the wedding ring that adorns his hand;
the photo of his son, inside his wallet;
a silver ring from one of her raven dreadlocks.
The flocks abandoned names are freshly scrawled
along the leaden cames of stained windows.
Surrounded by the crumbling church walls
they quickly light the contents of their hands,
but this is not a thurible containing old incense,
or a candle blessed to cry wax tears for the dead.
No, the Virgin Mary can tell you,
her glassy pupils catalogue the puckered lips;
contracting then expanding, sucking smoke
avidly through a museum of pipe.
The stubborn weeds that bow beneath her smile
are now haloed by the sweet perfume of crack-
more potent than the petals and bible mould,
redolent of damp, disinfectant and mice.
It grouts shadows under vacant eyes and over
twitching faces hungry for their next hit.
Dealers sit inside the rows of slim confession booths,
and through gritted teeth, their customers atone
for each delay in payment, as their startled feet
stamp time to discordant chimes from the belfry.
Elle Pryor writes fiction and poetry. She’s been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and journals (both online and off). These include South Jersey Underground, Used Gravitrons, The Transnational and The New Writer.