Grainger Market

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.