David Ratcliffe – Unreliable Witness

Profile David Ratcliffe LE Mag July 2019

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Unreliable Witness, poems by David Ratcliffe

David Ratcliffe hails from the north of England. He write’s poetry, short stories, song lyrics  & Stage plays. One of his plays ‘Intervention’ is currently with a theatre company in London. In 2016 his poem ‘Home Straight’ was shortlisted in the Fermoy International Poetry Festival Completion and was featured on the poetry trail that year. David’s debut collection; ‘Through An Open Window’ will be published later this summer by Rebel Press. His poetry has been published on-line in the following publications: THE BeZINE, Poetry Pacific Magazine, Sixteen Magazine, Mad Swirl, Tulip Tree Review (print version), Poem Hunter, Creative Talents Unleashed, The Blue Nib (His poem ‘He Crawled’ shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize 2018), The Blue Nib, print edition, issue 37, which includes 8 poems.  Poetry Website http://www.poetrybydavidratcliffe.com  Facebook Page 

Unreliable Witness

Leaving words unwritten
of thoughts indisposed
I finally conceded to fatigue,
logging off from the familiar,
while at odds with accounts.

Deleted files from my hard drive
attracted the self-appointed detective
working the night shift
who’d become perplexed
at disturbing images
demanding investigation.

As the mind closed down
he poked around
viewing the ‘out of whack’
box set of my autobiography
as the corrupted files played
nonsensical episodes.

Evermore confused and defeated;
his trilby slid over his eyes
as he fell asleep on the job
leaving the surreal episode
to drift into perdition.

A place where erased memory
of the dead presides
over varied reports
of time and place
about cold case events,
though nothing was taken
or body was found.

Recklessness befell mindfulness;
repentance recoiled
at the midpoint of torcher
as the grainy image closed
and woke the gumshoe
who questioned this unreliable witness
now seeking council.


I sauntered through decades
in twenty minutes;
along grey decking
beneath a pale blue sky,
full sun grilling my bald spot
demanding a cap,
as I listened to my son
laughing through the mystical portal
wedged in my clammy hand.

Playing with stubble; thoughts
tumbling like twitter feed
everything seemed immediate,
less so
then lost.

For over twenty years,
I’d craved such simple repartee;
a refuge from sorrow,
and so on capturing his self-effacing tone
I bathed in the warmth
of his sanguinity,
as we vacated the battlefield
to tend to our wounds

Together the sun and my son
illuminated the garden;
reds, greens & purples
vied for attention,
as his throwaway annotations
ricocheted around my head.

He said ‘I love you Dad’
as he hung up
my face aching,
head scorched.

Two days later,
another call from his number
though this time his aunt spoke…
‘John has been found dead’
his voice still playing in my mind
as she faltered with hers.

Without notice, my eyes filled
were boil-washed,
and hung out to dry.

The Music Died

You pluck chords from an open wound
composing a tortured symphony,
picking the same strings I strum,
feeling the pulse of pain
while I lip-sync emotion
as sand weeps into the bowl

Your disquiet disturbs me;
I envy it’s hurt,
wish to pierce my core,
allow it to bleed,
though numbness controls my hand
and all I do is hold you.

For now, I remain constipated,
although in time I know
I must die in instalments
scraping my bow
along the sinews of separation.


Skin glowing in the puce layer of sunset,
the enduring vestige of purloined fantasy,

her slight frame inclining a chill breeze,
eyes of neon lighting moments past.

Unadorned purity summoned in surfacing
passages defeats lip-glossed wantonness,

from masquerading ladybirds, mere beetles
underneath. She, the pure essence of

magnolia, graceful as a meadow pipit skipping
through the vale. No trinkets or concealer to

conceal her majesty, nor wanton attention
impose upon her virtue. Grace and elegance

lingers in my mind, modestly reigning over my
abiding memory of fair Bute Isle; of Eunice.


‘Someone important shot in the head’,
so the wireless told the elders, back when
‘get to bed or I’ll smack yer legs’ was a promise.

Yet more immediate to us;
at the hindmost angle of the yard
a hapless goalkeeper
attempted retrieval of
Jimmy Greaves’ projectile
from red-legged rhubarb stalks
thicker than his wrists.

Green elephant like ears protected
the death-row pie fillings
nestled on a clump of earth
below the tightrope
where birds performed aside
overalls and waving arms.

My brother and I hesitated
at thick-skinned defiance,
the binding of plant and bramble,
the vibrant creepy-crawlies
in that infinitesimal world housed
in the cracked hands of the Pennines.

Maybe we would retrieve it later
or gain revenge at the dinner table?
We never expected anyone would ask…
‘what were we doing that day’?
to which we’d reply…
‘We lost our ball in the rhubarb’.

Three-Day Week

Nestled in the Pennine vale,
blackened, defiled by time,
a ‘three day week’ factory,
serves a seven-day need.

Like concert pianists,
in neat rows, they sit ‘mantis-like’
taking turns in shouting
“where is that girl with my thread?”

Treadle down, run through,
hems sewn, scissors readied,
more attire for the wasteful breed
in ‘that’ London.

Burr of machines, piped music,
widows, wives, and spinsters
sing their own words;
vowels flatter than dads cap.

Callused fingers, shoulders burdened,
thoughts drift to trading gas money
for a chippy tea; large portion
feeds five, a midweek treat.

Through desperation and fear
they laugh at nothing
as if it were everything
and sing of brighter days.

© David Ratcliffe