Time, Gentlemen, Please

The last dart was thrown an hour ago,
a triple six. The last domino clacked down,
one of the interchangeable old timers
achieving his only win of the evening.
The last eight ball slammed into a corner pocket
and the white, lazily, trickled in off.

“Time, gentlemen, please.”

Ring stains Venn-diagram the tables,
losing bet at Ladbrokes overlapping
redundancies at work, argument
with partner overlapping chronic self-doubt,
final demand letter overlapping
that thing you’re too scared to see the doctor about.

“Time, gentlemen, please.”

Each overlap: an arrow jabbing at YOU ARE HERE.
Each overlap: your wallet down to one last fiver.
Each overlap: the dark twitchell on the walk home.
The falling to sleep still fully dressed. The buzz saw
insistence of the alarm in the morning. The cold
shower and the bitter coffee. The hangover.

“Time, gentlemen, please.”

Like a time-lapse shadow, the black dog
occupies the emptying floor space,
finds somewhere warm to curl up and sleep.
The black dog sleeps with one eye open.
The black dog sleeps with one ear raised.
The black dog sleeps with one tooth bared

and growls in his sleep as he dreams of using it.

Neil Fulwood has published two collections with Shoestring Press, "No Avoiding It" and "Can’t Take Me Anywhere", with a third - "Service Cancelled" - due out in June 2021. He lives and works in Nottingham. Read other articles by Neil.