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Four poems by Paul Birtill

Well Versed is edited by JODY PORTER


Nobody had any money in those days,
we got by borrowing of each other's giro.
Then someone mentioned in the pub that
you got fifty pounds cash if you donated
your body to medical science after death,
and a whole gang of us trooped up to the
medical school to enquire. 'We've stopped
doing that now' we were told. Too many people
were registering in Liverpool. 'Have you thought
about joining the army?' said the woman with a
wry smile on her face.

A Quiet Read

I started reading The 39 Steps today,
I believe it was very popular with
British soldiers in world war one –
a must-read in the trenches. How nice then
to be able to read it in the comfort, peace
and tranquility of my own home, without shells
exploding around me – lying on my bed with my cat
purring beside me, not ankle-deep in mud and shit,
worrying about snipers. How fortunate I was to be
born after 1945 in Western Europe.



Noise Pollution

I often shout and swear
at passing ambulances with
their sirens on. They look
a bit perplexed, but it's
such a horrendous noise
we've imported from America,
goes right through you – an
assault on the senses; although
I am well aware that one day if
I'm in need, it might be the nicest
and most welcoming sound I ever hear.



Our Back Garden

It wasn't very big, just a small
patch of grass really, but we all
loved our garden and enjoyed the
seasons in it. My mother who had
lived on a farm grew plants and flowers,
and we had a cat, a rabbit, two tortoises,
and some frogs we could hever find. In summer
we would all sit out on deckchairs, drink chilled
orange squash, sunbathe and read books. There was
also a coal-shed and a lavatory where we kept tools,
and a statue of the sacred heart without a head in
the corner, which my dad had found on Formby beach.
Beyond it was a disused railway embankment – a massive
jungle of trees and thick long grass. We were all very
thankful for it though, our little garden – our first
contact with nature.


Paul Birtill was born in Walton, Liverpool in 1960. He moved to London in his early twenties when he began writing, and apart from a brief period in Glasgow, has lived there ever since. His poems appear regularly in national newspapers, magazines and literary journals and he has read them on national radio and at poetry venues nationwide. He has published a number of collections on the Hearing Eye imprint including the best-selling Terrifying Ordeal and Collected Poems 1987-2010.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter –
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