On the yard behind Hanley Fire Station,  

Jean-Claude from the French manufacturer

is servicing the ladder. Bob, the chief mechanic, 

hands slipped inside navy boiler suit  

warm on his belly, purses his lips, 

puffs his cheeks at Jean-Claude spinning

in the operator’s seat like a funfair ride, 

testing the turntable: sending the ladder 

higher than the drill tower, maxed out; 

then all sections sliding down,

gathered into one again, compact.

In the first floor canteen 

they face one another in silence –

Bob knows a spanner and a spindle

but can’t do French, Jean-Claude 

flummoxed by the local cuisine –

both relieved they’re almost done,

back on their feet, cheers, au revoir

Up there you’re on your own. 

You wouldn’t believe the wobble, 

even on a still day. You can spot fires 

beyond the Potteries.