Fergus Durrant

Fergus was poet laureate between 2004 and 2005. He can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and his winning poem is below.

The Dapper Man by Fergus Durrant

The Dapper Man by Fergus Durrant

Pin eyed red yew berries oozed sticky juice from bitter navels.
Skin scale bark flaked from the surface of the thick spongy trunk,
And under the yew tree, next to the swing stood the shed, a patchwork of roofing felt,
Studded with clout nails and bird droppings, fruit peppered and half digested.

In amongst the coiled wire and mole traps, rakes, sieves, paints and poisons,
Box wood trays, oilcloth and hessian sacks, he had fallen.
Unable to rise he scrabbled for purchase only to bring…
A cascade of shelves and implements down, trapping him as memories went by.

A cock pheasant’s throat feather, an iris of tortoiseshell and amber,
Spangle tipped with aubergine and electric green had winked from over his hatband.
Shirt cuffs neatly darned and brown shoes polished, a retired country boy,
Flecked red veins on nose and cheek, aged scuffed weathering not from the drinkers reek.

He never knew his father, and his mother, a cook in service had said
“You stay to long and you’ll get put upon” thirty jobs in as many years,
Farmed out to various relatives and rough tradesmen, Laban his grandfather a strict Methodist finally took him in, hard work and abstinence the avoidance of sin.

Red House farm was near choked by the Great Central Railway line,
It had snaked through the pasture and into his childish mind,
As soon as he could he fled the coarse fields and entered a world of steam and wheels.
Rising from cleaner to fireman and driver he stood on the footplate no longer a scyther.

Called up to the Great War he joined the fighting Tigers, a grade one shot, six-pence
Extra a week, all those rabbits he’d potted now young Germans in his sights,
He killed, was wounded, twice, rose to a sergeant and survived, saw the Somme,
Ypres and Polygon Wood, Soisson the Aisne and rivers of blood.

His brother was killed his mother soon to die he left the railway
And bought the ironmongers at the back of the square,
Brushes brooms, mops and galvanised baths had hung outside like trophies on display.
Not a friendly man the customer was never right, he had a siesta between one and three, You’d have thought he came from Spain not near Daventry.

Married with three boys who would sometimes at night climb onto the high-pitched roofs
that crowded in around St Mary’s church.
Edging round chimney-stacks the youngest not sure what he should fear more, his vertigo or brothers mocking attacks.
Harmless fun until the neighbours complained about the foot loosened tiles scattered
in the street.
Whippy canes that bound the copra doormats hissed down on wincing palms and lessons where thought to be taught to wayward brats.

Now caught in his retirement shed, cruel creosote barrel burning his back, enmeshed in Wire and mire, trapped in the bunker falling through the gaps in memory and desire.
The dapper mans mind unpicked and slipped, falling away until when he was found,
As the blossoms from the cherry tree blow, all he could say was “Snow”.