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 (To Paul Sykes, author of 'Sweet Agony')

He demolished five doors at a sitting

And topped it off with an outsize window

One Christmas afternoon, when drunk;

Sober he smiled like an angel, bowed,

Kissed ladies’ hands and courtesy

Was his middle name.
She tried to pass for thirty at fifty-six, Called him "My Sweet piglet" and laid out Dainty doylies for his teatime treats; always She wore black from toe to top and especially Underneath, her hair dyed black, stuck up in a Bun, her lipstick caked and smeared, drawling From the corner of her mouth like a Thirties gangsters’ moll, her true ambition.
"Kill him, kill him, the bastard!" she’d scream As all Wakefield watched, "It’s Grotty, Grotty’s at it again!" as pubs and clubs Banned them, singly or together and they Moved lodgings yet again, landlords and Landladies left reeling behind broken doors.
Blood-smeared walls covered with a shiny Patina of carefully applied deceits! "It was The cat, the kids, them druggies, lads from Football", anyone, anywhere but him and her.
Once I heard them fight, "Barry, Barry, get The police," she thumped my door, double Five-lever mortice locked against them, "Call t’ police ‘e’s murderin’ me!" I went And calmed her down, pathetic in black Underwear and he, suddenly sober, sorry, Muttering, "Elaine, Elaine, it were only fun, Give me a kiss, just one.
" Was this her fourth or fifth husband, I’d Lost count and so had she, each one she said Was worse than the last, they’d all pulled her Down, one put her through a Dorothy Perkins Plate-glass window in Wakefield’s midnight, Leaving her strewn amongst the furs and Bridal gowns, blood everywhere, such perfection Of evidence they nearly let her bleed to death Getting all the photographs.
Rumour flew and grew around her, finally They said it was all in a book one ‘husband’ Wrote in prison, how she’d had a great house, Been a brothel madame, had servants even.
For years I chased that book, "Lynch," they Told me, "It’s by Paul Lynch" but it wasn’t, Then finally, "I remember, Sykes, they allus Called him Sykesy" and so it was, Sweet Agony, Written in prison by one Paul Sykes, her most Famous inamorato, amateur boxing champion Of all England, twenty years inside, fly-pitcher Supreme, king of spielers; how she hated you For beating her, getting it all down on paper, Even making money for doing it, "That bastard Cheated me, writing lying filth about me and I never saw a penny!" she’d mutter, side-mouthed, To her pals.
But that book, that bloody book, was no pub myth, It even won an Arthur Koestler Literary Award And is compulsive reading; hardly, as a poet, My cup of tea but I couldn’t put it down.
Paul Sykes, I salute you, immortaliser of Elaine, Your book became and is my sweetest pain.

Poem by Barry Tebb
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