Richard Copeland

Late Night Opening

Buy two, get one free, the red tag tempts, teasing

as a temple prostitute displaying her wares

in the all night day long store.

A thing caught between times, it becomes

a whispering vault of ghosts, shelf-stacking

in reverential silence cracked by the till's sharp beep

of acknowledgement, purring out a paper tongue.

A time when even brash banners seem to whisper

quiet confidences of twenty pence off here, fifty there

and, by the way, special reductions on Australian wines

(not sold after eleven o'clock, so forget it).

Prowl these postered aisles of gleaming tins.

Emblazoned cartons stand where labels leer.

Try to remember what need brought us here

to this unsleeping temple of must-have.

Something half forgotten dream-drifts vaguely,

slinks away behind the deli counter

now deserted, polished, gleaming empty.

Night time store dreams

a slow pad of patrons

caught somewhere

between sleep and shopping.

Where aisle-separated phantoms shuffle

no one speaks.

Richard Copeland © 2008

'Late Night Opening' was first published in Envoi.

All poems from Richard Copeland's forthcoming

collection This Is Not A Sonnet (Survivors' Press, 2008)

Sarajevo 1914

That first shot was the detonator;

a tiny spit of flame igniting

the main charge

that was Europe.

The fire spread rapidly, burning all

in its path, destroying

the work of hands

for centuries laid down

with love, honour and spite

brought to dust, fire and blood,

Death's dominion supreme,

nations lay smoking,



Where did men come from to come

to this? What drove

barbarians to fight

all against all?

That first shot

still reverberates.

Echoes back

to Cain.


Spear sharp against the sky, the thistles stand,

their plumed war bonnets

of purple plush

challenging the eye

to question their purpose

Whose partisans spike the air against

the vengeful grasp of uprooting hands

that would tear them from resisting earth


they stand defiant

firmly rooted

grim as Thermopylae


the execution stroke of the hoe's blade

later to return


Richard Copeland © 2008