Night Shift

In strange back lanes behind high flats, shuttered for Sunday, workshops still,
I walk from town, coffees, small talk.  The clouds, enormous, bloom and chase
Above the black, three-cornered shack whose pools of light and oil spill.

For Max is working, by the sign which jokes of horseless carriages,
With Charlie's name, who skilfully rebored worn engines, year on year,
From Jaguars (gripped by anxious hands) beloved Minis, Land Rovers.

But Charlie died, as Max did once, when he was young Max. In his head
Metal plates grate.  The garagemen thought his long head was not the same
Before uncombed curls rusted grey, feet, as he dragged engines, shambled.

The young Inspector in his suit reeled through our door. "It's Dickens' time
Up there.  There's hardly room to squeeze, past piles of engines, boxes, tools."
Since Charlie's death, he works alone.  I glimpse the gangway, lit.  The whine

Of grinders guards the open door.  Unseen must be the hayloft stair.
The strip-lit office dazzles, bare, but for a calendar of lakes,
No deadlines, engine blocks, spilt oil. Its birches tremble.  Max is there.

Alison Brackenbury

If you have any comments on this poem, Alison Brackenbury would be pleased to hear from you.