On the Fellowship of Young Poets

for A.J. and N.C.


An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar… cheap joke, how it began

one ancient evening on the lash in Leeds.

Three likely lads, fresh from writing degrees,

thinking they knew it all and next to nowt

at once, as if the margins of hope and doubt

were clear as the angles on the pool table

they’d gathered round. Watch them now, unable

to imagine, as youth will, what’s up ahead,

each smoothly potting the yellows or reds

in the backroom of a pub’s smoky haze.

You want to tell them these are the best days,

aren’t they, but this is only a memory,

now the baize is cleared for one final whisky.