Thom Boulton /Smell a Rat/

Smell a Rat

In confined spaces
you can
really get
a good whiff,
really smell
someone’s neck,
something you don’t often
get a chance to do
in normal circumstances.

If there were such a thing as
Halal buses, or Kosher,
they could say a prayer or
before everyone’s packed
into the killing floor.

What is this need to cram? To overcrowd?

Put a smeared cotton bud,
swabbed with a bead of sweat,
under the microscopic lens of a microcosm
and watch the population boom.

What’s next?
Will the buses be stuffed in bigger buses?

£16.95 for a
bird within a bird
within a bird,
within a bird, within a bird
within a bird.
Six bird roast is what his neck smelt like.
Six bird roast is what his neck looked like.

Cut a slither and serve with
a gravy made
from the stewed juices of tracksuits,
odour drenched trainers
everyone’s combined salty moisture,
slowly condensed upon the vehicle’s ceiling.

A packet of frankfurters has more room.
Silly sausages in cling film,
like they’ve all just been to the tattoo parlour.
Frankfurters all smell the same,
reconstituted meat fat and sugar.

Her neck smells like
meat fat and sugar.

It’s too crowded in this rolling sewer.

Rats like to escape,
flee the nest and go out on their own.

Signal to the driver,
wave a flag made from crumpled tissues,
because semaphore is impossible
when arms are pressed in tight.

The door opens
and another sniffer vacates.



Thom has been writing contemporary poetry for twelve years. He credits his prolificity to his love of words and his interest in the world. As of October 2016 Thom was chosen by a panel of literary professionals to be the new Poet Laureate for the City of Plymouth. Following his instatement as Plymouth Poet Laureate Thom performed during the Plymouth Literature Festival 2016 at various events across the city. He has self-published books for both adults and children which often centre around folklore and fairy tale themes.


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