20 Lambert & Butler by Gary McKenzie

Gary McKenzie is currently studying English literature at Stirling University. Gary has performed at various events in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and has also set up spoken word evenings in his hometown of Alloa. His work been published in Poetry Scotland, AfterNyne MagazineThe Grind, and South Bank Poetry.


20 Lambert & Butler


The 6 AM darkness is painful
An unrelenting reminder that you should be somewhere else
Somewhere warm and safe. Not here and not alone.
Your morning cough now takes longer to shift. It belonged
To a winter cold two years ago and has since taken up
Permanent residence. The rattle and wheeze takes hours instead of minutes
To prepare you for the rest of the day, it is only when dusk falls do you feel anything close
To yourself, or at least the memory of.

The clock on the wall marches routine into a calendar, pages that have been silently torn
Without your permission now lie muddied across the damp pavements.
Will it ever stop raining?
Up and out onto the streets, the lights give the town a fake tan.
Still, it is your favourite time of the day, quiet.

You cough, light a fag, cough, blow out the smoke
With less and less conviction.
It is quiet.

Every morning during the week, you open the door
Hear the shop bell, now buzzer,
Announce your presence.
You wipe your feet on the cardboard box that is used as a doormat
And a sigh involuntary escapes, it echoes round the shop.
A sigh heavy with anger about where life has refused to put you.
The counter was once wood, it is now cheap and throwaway plastic.
That would not have happened when you were a boy
The old man kept the place immaculate, and now look
Look around at today.

The new owner behind the counter seems to have grown old without you noticing
He knows what you want, but you still say it anyway
20 Lambert & Butler, a bottle of ginger, and some chewing gum to help
With the dryness that arrives before lunch.
You used to get change from a fiver, now you add coins to the ten pound note.
Look around at today.

The morning exchange, the usual reply
‘Aye im daeing fine’ is disavowed by your own breath.
That heavy sigh is still heard, it has seeped into the walls
Screaming with all the rest. You both face each other
Like guard and jailer, never saying what is raging inside.
The weather, you talk about the weather
And how this damp chills you to the bone.

Gary can be reached via his email address, garymckenziepoetry@outlook.com.