Gift of the Gab
Closing time. The market traders wrap
their gifted tongues in greaseproof paper.
They transplant the vivid steaks
to cold drawers and the walk-in fridge,
from where now my granddad steps
with a chilled-blue face, calling last reductions.
His language is foreign to me.
I can’t translate the weights and measures
on this avenue of butcher’s shops.
It should be in my blood,
his knack for selling, his spiel and patter,
but I’m more at ease with the cleanliness
of what the market has become.
An emporium of the artisan: bistros,
vintage clothes and specialist obsessions,
cup cakes and paella dishes – silent
and arranged where the dead still slash
the sacks of sawdust open. They hang
rabbits like wrung-out rags,
singing with their strong tongues of kilogram
and stone, of shilling, pence and pound.
John Challis was born in London. The recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award and a Pushcart Prize, his poems have appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in Magma, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Rialto. He holds a PhD from Newcastle University where he works as a Research Associate.