David Burridge

That Word

Saw it first chalked on a pavement.
When adults leant over
I shoe-shuffled a smear.
But it had already slipped into my
vocabulary shadows.
Mostly hung back but an uncalled for
daylighting earned me a smack.

When school shrivelled away,
I was at work ‒shifting sacks.
It was the adjective of choice
for mates who wrapped it around
every sentence just to say
nothing is worth even a shrug.

Trouble started when it became a verb
It was cool for the long-haired to discuss it in depth.
Of course there was the urging:
would you? yes I will and I did.

Later in the batter of business it signalled a deal-breaker
or a derisory offer. Finally used in a storm of displeasure
echoing all the way down the road.

Now in my stumbling days I knee-jar on the pavement,
and spit it out ‒back to where it belongs.
At last I can open and shut an empty mouth.