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Poetry Pleases: The New Builder

...“I’ll bet you shudder every time
The sky turns grey.
All that rain...''

The rain is coming in, and the builder comes to inspect the roof. Jackie Mallinson's poem will make every homeowner go outside to apprehensively stare upwards.

He talked about our roof
That will keep letting in the rain
As if it were a thing in its own right.
“Those coping-stones, you see.
At that angle, there’s some weight in them,
Pulling down.”
Standing in the yard, looking up
Where he’d just been,
Relaxing in his large shortish frame –
“There’s quite a lot of movement
I would say, up there.”
“It’s a new roof “, I say.
“Aye but they’ve not left ye any lead
And that’s a costly job today.
The weight of rain,
Ye’d be surprised –
Those coping stones –
You’ll need some bloody good cement up there.
But I’ll tell you what I’ll do” –
His hands made pictures in the air –
“I’ll seal the gullies with fibre glass.
It comes in rolls of fifty yards.
I can do from top to bottom in one piece.
That felting that they put –
Who’d you say it was that did it?
It won’t hold the water out.
Not like we get it falling here.
I’ll put this Shell stuff on first,
Then two layers of fibre glass.
It won’t be brittle
And it won’t pull against the stone.
It expands.
It won’t crack, you see.”
Then looking up
“There’ll be a lot of movement
On that big roof up there.”

Dick arrived, and he said it all again.
I stood looking at the roof,
Feeling the beating that it took
In this wild weather place
And softened to its habit
Of letting in the squalling rain.

We came inside. Drank tea.
He, smiling mentioned his young son, Craig,
Then back to the roof again.
“I’ll bet you shudder every time
The sky turns grey.
All that rain
Draining to those gullies –“
I smiled then, adding,
“Splashing on the bedroom floor.”

Then I felt him explore
What he’d seen on the roof once more
“While we’re at it
We’ll clean the moss out of the gutters
And do that drainpipe, shall we?
And that part at the back
You’ll have some damp in there.
The first fine day, we’ll be here.
We give priority to a job like this.”
The roof for a while was his,
All the weight and movement that was up there.

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