Snag Sheet

Cleat hooks glinted on the window wall.

We checked again the spotless parquet

for paint flecks, even the galvanised conduits

and trunking, the suspended lights.

A song of an American summer played low.

He slipped in ahead of schedule, mild, beige,

miles from his reputation. From a chrome tin

a telescopic aerial deftly linked

to a wing mirror. Straight backed,

stepping sideways around the high room,

his eyes fixed on the mirror tilted just so,

keen to pick us up on any skimping –

beneath the cast iron water pipes and radiators.

At his shoulder, the chargehand

feigned laughter at his own remarks.

We thought of the brushes we’d taped

to broom handles, to hooked wires

that got us to places we guessed he’d go,

smiled as we watched him getting smaller,

scuttling off without a word.