Promoting Poetry in Scotland

Comeuppance | paul batchelor


I liked the way she said it,
like getting a fleck
of baccy off her lip:
You’ll get your comeuppance.
It had a smack
than a smack
of inheritance,
the way she’d spit
those plosives out

spite, think pittance,
precious little
as I ducked outside
to pick a dandelion:
You’ll get your comeuppance.
I took her word for it.

Her fear of dandelions!
We’d plant them in her slippers
or the cutlery drawer
the way the littlest thing
betokened something

her toothache, her bunions,
her illiterate faith in language

the way an idle word,
a bitten-off breath,
could seed the day with auguries;
the way if you said
she wouldn’t leave the house
but sit, fixed in her chair,
the way she sits today,

cast up on widowhood
like something brittle
while her daughters fuss about her.
Tight-lipped, she’ll never speak
about their father. She’ll die
asking if it’s fair,
her fine-spun puff of hair

flustered, pitiful,
backlit by the nightlight,
in the end
neither here nor there

like a blown clock, or,
as she might have said.

Paul Batchelor was born in Northumberland. In 2003 he received an Eric Gregory Award; his first collection, The Sinking Road, appeared from Bloodaxe in 2007. It was shortlisted for the Jerwood-Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Glen Dimplex Prize for Best First Collection.Paul wrote a PhD on Barry MacSweeney’s poetry, and is a freelance reviewer, writing mainly for the Times and the Guardian. His website can be found at: www.paulbatchelor.co.uk.

winners: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2008