Two Poems

Rachel Burns

Photo Credit: Kent Wang/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Grandad’s Shotgun

Grandad kept a shotgun in the shed;
the farmer paid him to shoot wild rabbits.

He brought them back home, pitiful and dead,
skinned their small bodies from their grey fur coats.

He’d make a rabbit stew, adding onion,
leek, a dash of salt and a fistful of thyme.

Come teatime he’d ladle rabbit flesh
into my bowl. I’d stare at it and refuse to eat, face sullen.

You’ve brought this bairn up too soft, he’d say to my mother,
tossing me a hunk of bread and butter.


Manchester, Piccadilly

Sunday morning and the tram from Bury
is late getting away. Parklife same every year!
Metrolink is a load of crap! You emphasise
the guttural k.

The porters herd us forward—
I talk about my grandfather, the railway artist.
I have his poster “Manchester’s New Station”
on my bedroom wall. You stifle a yawn and say,

I don’t give a fuck about art, I don’t see the use of it
I mean what’s the fucking point of looking at a picture.

The information screen rolls down the time:
long delays

until our rammed carriage
finally pulls away
first to Radcliffe then Whitefield. The crowd engulfs us—
shiny happy faces—eyes dilated, you watch the girls
as they sway in their Hunter wellies and ripped shorts.

An elderly man tries to get off
at Besses o’ th’ Barn (an unmanned station with no guard).
He pushes the red button, voice shrill, panicky
move… move out of the way.
There is no room, he backs his wheelchair
towards the exit, the crowd spill onto the platform
like hyperactive ants, then scuttle back on again.

We continue our journey
the red light flashing,
on off, on off.
Six Glaswegian boys talk loud and lairy
about dogging a girl from Paisley. They pass
their potent brew back and forth. You listen bemused
as they sing their festival songs, lyrics that rhyme and are easy.

The discarded bottles clink across the floor.
We reach Heaton. The crowd
pulses forward
through the opening doors, voices echo in stereo
gradually fading into the underground below.

In the subdued quiet, you ask
about my grandfather, the great artist.
I see your feigned interest in the dark glass
the tram lurches forward—three-quarters empty—
he died before your time, I say.

The world outside hurtles past
Lowry’s haunts,
Oldfield to George Street, the remnants of the mills
the dying industrial scene, St Peter’s Square
and Victoria, the new modern Manchester

We arrive at Manchester Piccadilly
and step out into the open air.
The view of the station disappoints; it hardly compares
to the sweeping romance of the 1962 railway poster
on my bedroom wall. You are not fussed
but I feel cheated. The sky darkens.
Like an arrow-shower it starts to rain.


Rachel Burns is a poet and playwright living in Durham City, England. She is currently an Arvon/Jerwood mentee in playwriting. Poems have been published in UK literary magazines recently The Lake, South, Southlight and Lonesome October and The Herald newspaper. She was shortlisted for the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize 2017. Email: rachel.burnsba[at]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email