Birmingham Goldsmith

Each morning with a click of bicycle chain
he leaves her at the mangle in the grey backyard
the fire-fly of his fag-end disappearing in the dark
like a hot kiss.

The streets smell of coal-dust and sleep
and Orion is still bedded down behind the gasometer,
as men spill from yellow-throated doorways hunkered
beneath flat caps, dreaming of frowsty sheets.

All day beneath the zircon blue of kerosene
he sits nailed to the wooden bench
by his leather apron spread to catch
the gilt-edged dust that pollens

his skilled fingers saffron
as he buffs and burnishes 9ct curbs
and belcher chains, chaises the bevels
of machine-turned rings for other women's hands.

All morning she heaves grey underwear
from aluminium to windy washing line
wiping suds from raw fingers
onto her flowered apron to wait

for meter-men, agents with rent books
as dogs bark their arrival up the windy alley.
Her back aches. What she needs is sleep
as she pictures him washing the aureate dust

from his sweat-soaked hair, his white body
bent above the pantry sink, wet head
shimmering beneath the kitchen lamp,
Archangel in a halo of gold.