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Bus Talk

Simon Armitage

Of all the bloody cheek. How the hell would they feel

if they pulled their bathroom curtains back and found

the bottom of their garden slumped in the river

and their new greenhouse leaning over like a tent


with half the pegs pulled out? ‘Don’t worry Mr Argot,’

they said, ‘your house is built on a plane of bedrock’

Apparently it’s the frost that’s done this that and the other

to the soil. I said that might be very true


but the frost isn’t going to put it back is it?

And the insurance won’t pay. Sent a bloke round

with a spirit-level, couldn’t have been here ten minutes

before he was up and off. I said listen, mate.


I used to be an engineer, I know subsidence

when I see it. He said it would have to look

like the Brighton bombing before they’d even think

of forking out. Don’t you worry, pal. I said.


if you have to pull me out of the rubble

with my tackle hanging out and half the world there watching

I’ll drag you through court so fast you won’t know

if you’re coming or going. I mean,


I don’t know why he bothered coming round

he didn’t know goose-shit from tapioca.

Only this morning the alarm clock had walked

to the edge of the drawers. It would have smashed


to smithereens but it went off and I woke up

and caught it. And I can’t put eggs down anywhere.

No, if this house hasn’t dropped a good two inches

this last eighteen months, my cock’s a kipper.


From The North No 4 (1988).