[Poetry] — Simon Robson

Shopping City

Hey babe, let’s go to Shopping City –
We’ll buy new shoes and pink socks from Primark, 
a cup of frothy coffee in Luigi’s…
‘Stop, stop,’ you’ll say…

We’ll trudge through the slush in our wet trainers, 
ignoring any whining, spoilt children, 
temper tantrum ticking time bombs, 
pushing the wheels of their mini trolleys, 
damage to your stockings, slender, glass ankles, knees, 
dodging dangerous, sharpened trolleys…

Over the pedestrian crossing –
Feeling peckish, jumbo cod and chips,
a free eye test, free manicure for your painted nails, 
Hilary Mantel in the book shop, 
all the best selling history you can read and digest,
maybe a walk later by the river, 
more half-submerged shopping trolleys, 
floating business cards, 
a graphic design artist from Hounslow, 
agency worker… 

We’ll buy banana milkshake shampoo and conditioner, 
order pie and mash,
a liquorice assortment of fragrant riches, 
free samples of perfume for the back of your 
graceful, swan-like neck, wrists and elbows, 
the Boots perfume counter assistant looking 
like Dracula’s daughter, anaemic, skin problems, 
a hot Turkish bath, massage and shower, 
essential oils, stress relief –
in your blue leather jacket and taste for Maltesers…

I’ll treat you to a winning Millionaire scratch card, 
money, unlimited curry powder –
emptying our loose change into various charity buckets, clink, 
introductory prices on hand wipes,
everyone officious, distancing yourself on the escalator…

No cure for the shingles –
the petrol filling station, 
Pinot Grigio, Chianti, frankfurters 
and squeezy mayonnaise,
daffodils, total savings, nil…

International capital –
Let’s fish in the bargain bins, 
our emotional future together means nothing,
it can be predicted by feeding our usual signatures 
into a giant computer like a hideous squid…
our fortunes denied or confirmed…


Instead of sitting in for the afternoon and watching TV –
We’ll head for Shopping City 
and buy a tin of white paint and 
redecorate the place, a lawnmower perhaps, paint everywhere…

We’ll bang our green tambourines in the music shop –
We’ll put down a monthly instalment for a new sofa in 
The World of Leather, 
red buses outside, hissing brakes like snakes…
pigs in blankets, sage and onion stuffing balls, 
anti-social behaviour, clothing item returns in Next…
knee-length swimming trunks in Peacocks…

We’ll wink at the building society cash dispensers, 
woolly, white dogs –
Passing the key kiosk full of clocks and lifts, 
multi-storey car park entrance, cracked windscreens…

I’ll buy you a Chamois leather cloth for your specs, 
nervous purple rashes between your shoulder blades… 
fantastic, waltzing up the escalators, 
Nepalese women who used to live in the foothills of the Himalayas,
a potpourri of kisses, a pair of raised, platform heels –
A pint of prawns from the fishmonger’s stall.

Pineapple Jam

Virdi at work
told me about pineapple jam, the wonders…
how his daughter, a gymnast, double-jointed –
a care assistant who likes it on her porridge
every morning, dealing with the elderly 
and infirm, false Barclays bank accounts,
losing money they don’t have, off-shore 
drilling drugs,
money laundering.

Virdi at work on the parcel sorting machine
beside me –
telling me about bags of pineapple jam,
ten thousand parcels in an hour,
never flinching when there’s a jam,
raspberry, strawberry, rejects at 75%…

One day when my brain turns into pineapple
jam, a fruity substance, I tell him,
not unlike pineapple jam –
pineapple slush mixed with vodka and ice –
Virdi with his stiff, upright neck,
he didn’t believe me,
all the porridge she can eat, I said.

Swift hands, pineapple jam pouring out of my
ears and arse, I’ll sell it in jars, soft, pineapple chunks,
just for her, I said, but he still didn’t believe me,
concentrate on your work, a two hundred bonus
at Christmas, day off to eat…

More runny pineapple jam –
I’ll make my fortune on pineapple jam, a goldmine –
Virdi’s got a bruise on his forehead from headbanging,
not that he listens to much music, hoovering the stairs,
an accident doing the housework while his wife was out –
his daughter starts her day off with pineapple jam
on toasted bread, one side butter and the other side
jam bought from the exotic superstore, my brain.

Like Leon Spinks?

It’s not easy trying to concentrate on your 
limited carpentry skills 
when you’re feeling rejected, 
dove-tail joints, splinters in your fingers… 
when you’d rather be elsewhere, 
than an unemployment training centre, 
because the girl you love has found herself 
another admirer for her affections.

Even the guy supervising knows, 
smelling of Evo Stik, wood adhesive glue –
when you thought you were inseparable, good together –
he’s seen the pair of them in Richmond Park…
canoodling by the golf course, 
her foolish Alsatian chasing the deer.

Here’s a photo of her –
she’s a severe looking florist’s assistant 
with a ladybird brooch in her hair, 
black trainers, high cheekbones…
a taped conversation –
you’re going to be made a sacrifice 
at this summer’s solstice… 

What are you going to do? –
after they’ve been to the multi-plex, 
they’re visiting her mother for a fish 
and chip supper, your favourite –
are you just going to forget about it like a sap 
or are you ready to pummel the pretender 
with frantic, clenched fists… 


Simon Robson is a warehouse worker and poet. His poetry has been published by Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry, Bindweed Magazine, and others, and his poetry pamphlet Mum Gum Gas Sag Tug Gut (1997) is published by Hangman Books.


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