There were two wonders in our provincial town
on the cindery car park by the river
when I was seventeen – both August marvels.
First was the Century Theatre,
with its proper post war worthiness,
touring each year the north and the midlands
from the Five Towns to West Hartlepool
in three bespoke aluminium trailers
pulled by an ex-army Crossley tractor.
The same actress played Jimmy Porter’s
Alison, Sally Bowles and Elena
Ivanova Popova in ‘The Bear’.
I was struck – by the stage, the moon and love.
Next, on a seventy foot flat-bed truck,
was a dead fin-back whale harpooned
off Trondheim, preserved in formaldehyde
and painted with tar. It toured through the north
surreally as ‘Jonah the Whale’ as if
the rabbit foot had become the rabbit.
It lay like an elongated accident.
For a shilling you could get up close
and see the dead eye and the once olive
striated skin blackened with tar – and smell,
despite the preservatives, the corruption.
Better was the view from the city walls.
Where there had been outrageous laughter was beached
that solitary, dark leviathan.