Outside Nan and Granddad’s house
there was a patch of grass and a goal
chalked onto the flank of the terraced houses
where me and my brother played kickabout
until chased away by neighbours who’d shout,
‘Arl tell ye Nan on ye!’ and ask if we couldn’t read
the signs – white-on-black warnings nailed
into orange-brick by the Seffy that read ‘NO BALL GAMES’.
Every corner of the estate was the same.
A mixing pot of dog shit in plastic bag
and broken glass and beer can, burned-
out bin, parked transit-van and everywhere
you could envisage a goal, in garage door
and boarded window, in empty swing set
and garden wall, were the signs ‘NO BALL GAMES’
next to the ones for ‘NO DUMPING’
and ‘NO FOULING’ as though child’s play
was somehow dirty, as though child’s play
was somehow dangerous, as though imagination
needed to be chained down because the brickwork
would crumble to dust if we were allowed a chance
to put a size-five through our frustrations.
In the summer used to take off our trainers, tie our laces
to sticks and fish in the canal with paperclip hooks.
There we noticed what happened when you removed the C
from the sign on the bank that said, ‘CANAL WIDTH 14ft’.
Pint-sized revolutionaries, we returned to the estate
and made the signs our own.
‘NO BALL GAMES’
We took turns standing on each other’s shoulders
blacking out the Bs and Ns and Os and we changed the world.