for Patricia Bartlett

Speaking to you of the emerald swallow
in a dusty shaft of pool-room sun
he discusses family tradition
grandfather got one on Gibraltar
father leaving The Crum.
Turning talk to victims to terms of parole
you’re no soft child.

Speaking to you of a tall ship
sailing in tangled moon
he says only ever a single ambition—
drive a Scania forty tonner long distance
but how could a fucking dickhead
with a record
get a HGV Class One?

Speaking to you of love and hate
the first skin shrines
he recalls a teacher’s reaction
two words you can actually spell.
Asked to read in front of others
straight out the door
telling the baldy bastard go to hell.

Speaking to you of the blue banner
unfurling a mother’s name
he mentions that night
she did it right.
Curled in pink on the bathroom floor
fistful of Temazepam
quarter bottle of Smirnoff.

Speaking to you of time management
the suit says six minutes
per offender interview.
Two hours for complete report.
But tonight you know
after five thousand miles
a green bird glides
over the field of the ancient wheat
after five thousand black glistening miles.