York in Poetry: Drinking Through the Ages

Posted on 24 November 2012 | Poem

In the dank alley at the side of the church,
the bright young things of five hours past lurch
like lepers and cripples in search of a shrine
as they head for the clubs after chucking-out time.

Sundry folk, these pilgrims of pleasure,
by ale and cheap spirits all gaggled together,
join with the ghosts of medieval drunks;
the dicers, dancers, wives and monks.

After the queue; the noise, the smoke,
bright light and black shadow. Lost souls choke
on beer and shouting; flash the dosh
in tableaux drawn from Dante or Bosch,

in hope of falling into sin.
The same as it has always been,
the unrepentant only curse
to discover their damnation is in the purse.

Staggering, slurring, talking shite,
it’s ‘Bring out your dead!’ on a Tuesday night
or Wednesday morning, homeward led
to the penance of the splitting head.

- Oz Hardwick