1 in 50 colleagues

I liked the way she swore
as if everything mattered;
her hooded watchful eyes behind spectacles
from the fashionable end of economy range;
the reptilian quality of her knuckles
where eczema flared; the shape of her shoulders
which always brought to mind Uncle Fester
and her not-quite-fully-erased

We worked the 3-11 shift, screwing
caps on bottles of 3-in-1 toilet cleaner,
the smell of it stuck in our throats
like a bad idea.
To her, deep conversation was to
talk about ghosts; so we discussed men,
the failings of other workers, and
the sickest jokes we'd ever heard.

Her scattergun mouth made her dismissal
just a matter of time. Sure enough
the General Manager commented on her
standard of work, and was invited
to return home and perform an act
that sounded reasonably unhygienic
and definitely unfeasible.

I liked her; she'd made
a lot of long hours


There is a man-sized hole
at the base of the monolith.
Before I step inside
I realise that vertigo
also happens looking up.
Victoria Mills is listed,
and listing through subsidence.
It's a race to see if nature
or culture razes it first.

In there, steps bolted
to the walls go nowhere.
Missing floors. I wonder
what the fine for trespass is.
Whole communities of pigeons
drop shit 200 feet
from broken skylights.

You can almost hear
the thunder of machines,
the grunts of workers -
ghosts of industry
now forgotten, replaced by graffiti:
Becky loves John, between
Sing when we're fishing,
and Elvis, who presumably
has left the building.

Fast food emporium shining like fly wings on a rotten hunk of meat

The five stars
signified only
longevity, not
Not the
brightest light
in the firmament,
I could tell. She
asked her questions, and
took my order without
making eye contact,
no doubt thinking
of tonight's revelry
at Flares or where-
ever, while
she ambled around
the greasy floor
as if there was
all the time in the
world to be a

Anything else?
Some common
courtesy, I said.
But since they
can't package
that yet
or combine it
with a toy
and since they can't
make it
a special offer
(just reduce its value)
my request served
merely to confuse
and left her open
to the full force
of my
parting smile
which moved
across the restaurant
at the speed of light.

I hurried out
not for the first time
thinking there's
nothing wrong
with a
fresh green

Perfect moment

half an orange
an enormous pile of dogshit
and a bicycle chain
on the ground
a triangle
the green car
from the kerb
and the old man
looks over
his shoulder
to see
what all the
was about

The reality of air travel in an age of panic

                                  up;       bank -
              and further                   then seat belt lights
        up,                                        go off, and we settle,
Up,                                       hoping the next
                                                    3 hours 20 minutes pass
                                        without incident.
                                        This is air travel these days
                                        looking at other passengers
                                        to determine if they're likely
                                        to do anything impressive.

                                        I watch the land below
                                        turn from brown and green
                                        to yellows and reds, until
                                        I am drawn into conversation
                                        with a man with hairy ears
                                        called Nigel, who tells me all about
                                        his life as a civil engineer,
                                        whatever that is.

                                        Yes, air travel these days
                                        is usually very dull indeed,
                                        except for the takeoff,
                                                                                         of course

Miles J. Bell is 34, married, and lives and works in gritty Northern England.
His first chapbook "The finite beat" is released in October and is available from for a modest fee. He is England's wittiest poor

His work can be found at

2005 Underground Voices