Chester – Stephen Claughton


He was from Chester, you said,
the builder who swindled you,
as if that made everything right.

Chester was where you first taught,
where your father died,
where you met and married Dad.

It has its famous Rows,
a Norman cathedral and castle,
a racecourse and a zoo.

Yes. I remember Chester.
As kids, we’d have lunch in Quaintways,
then walk along the walls,

or take boat trips on the Dee.
Years later, I rowed my wife
as far as Eccleston Ferry.

Let’s hear it for the place
that the Romans called Deva Victrix.
Is there anywhere else you know

that can boast a hypocaust
in the basement of Spudulike?
Chester, home of Hollyoaks,

the Chester Mystery Cycle,
the Jolly Miller of Dee
and the Deva Ladies’ Choir.

Home, too, of whoever he was,
that scheming, Cestrian crook,
who ripped my mother off,

a rogue roofer who called on spec
and got her to change good tiles
for ones that didn’t match —

always a sucker for charm.
He was from Chester, you say?
So, don’t they have criminals there?


Stephen Claughton has published two pamphlets, The War with Hannibal (Poetry Salzburg, 2019) and The 3-D Clock (Dempsey & Windle, 2020). He reviews regularly for London Grip and links to his reviews, poems and pamphlets can be found at



Con Moto – Stephen Claughton

Con Moto

Who else would have thought of it:
teaching yourself to drive
by sitting at the piano,
playing with (look!) no hands?

That’s how I found you one day,
both feet on the pedals,
an umbrella clutched by your side,
as you practised changing gear.

In the days before simulators,
what else were you to do?
I needn’t have scoffed, I suppose:
you passed your test first time,

even though years of driving
never quite smoothed out
those kangaroo starts
and tooth-on-edge, grinding gears.

You carried on into your eighties,
pooh-poohing my spoil-sport advice
about buses and taxis being cheaper
(and less costly to life and limb).

Nothing could dent your resolve.
Wing mirrors in the end
became consumable items
like the tins of touch-up paint.

Even writing your car off once,
not stopping when you should,
didn’t prompt you to give up,
whatever that policeman said.

Those white-knuckle rides to the station!
I’d rather have walked through the rain
with a ton of luggage in tow
than have taken those lifts with you.

“Remind me again,” you said,
as we came to a busy junction,
“what happens at roundabouts.”
No arguing, you were grounded after that.

You still had the piano, though,
tuned up, ready to go,
whenever you fancied a spin,
or a trip down memory lane.

You read music better than roads
and never lost your touch,
the notes still at your fingertips,
long after you’d failed to grasp words.


Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared widely in magazines, both in print and on line, most recently in Ink Sweat & TearsLondon Grip and Poetry Salzburg Review. Another is forthcoming in The High Window.