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‘The Fire Station’

is a box of matches
wedged in the kitchen
drawer between polio
jabs, BMX wheelies,
oily King marbles
like dark planets,
the car park
sign that made us
snigger, asking if
you had remembered
to pay and display
your ticket cock
when you took us to
Beacon Park in
the courgette
green Hunter
the days you were
on nights.

The fire station
is a box of matches,
its eggshell-pink
scratchy walls
a strikepad for
engines to spark
to market town
a bum superglued
to the bus station
loo, a willy in a
milk bottle, a kid’s
head in school
railings, nothing
that a bit of soap
wouldn’t shift.

The fire station
is a box of matches,
firemen rattling
around inside,
giving stick,
playing volleyball
in burgundy tees,
custard breeches,
Dad whacking
Terry Marshall,
teeth fizzing blue,
us being rehoused,
no one laughing now



Sarah Barnsley was a Runner-Up in the Poetry School / Pighog Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2014 for her collection The Fire Station.

‘I wrote this poem after re-visiting one of the fire stations I grew up next to.  I was surprised by how small it really was, how inside were lots of memories of my family, my childhood, and how it had always been with me despite not thinking about it too much, like the odd things kept in kitchen drawers which never get chucked away.   And then I scratched myself on one of the outside walls and I got the matchbox image – and the poem pretty much wrote itself.  Those ‘market town emergencies’ all happened on my dad’s watch; there were more practical jokes to deal with than there were ever fires – and lots of hanging around playing volleyball.’

‘The Fire Station’ was first published in Envoi, 155 (February 2010), 33-34.

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Image credit: Ed Berg / Wikimedia Commons