'Tempest Avenue'. I still live there, and nothing much has changed in this poem - Mr Ford's retired, Mr Lawley's next door, my mother lives down the street. My son is now sixteen, but everything else is true.

Tempest Avenue

It is 5 am, and I am standing
in the half light bedroom
holding our son. He is finally asleep

and I lay him gently in the cot,
trying not to rattle the toy bear
attached to the bars. Next door

Mr Lowe is having a dream about
the glassworks at Stairfoot. Look:
all the workers have turned to glass,

what a strange dream. Across
the road, Mr Ford is cycling
out of his drive to the pit. He

cycles during the week, takes the car
at weekends, Down the street
my mam is standing at the kitchen

window, looking at our house, thinking
‘Our Ian will be asleep. I hope
Mr Ford’s squeaky cycle doesn’t wake him up.’

And I am being careful, so careful
with these words, laying them
gently into this poem, turning to the door.

from Dad, the Donkey's on Fire: Poems from A Chin (Carcanet, 1994), copyright Ian McMillan 1994, used by permission of the author

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