Published on May 8th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington


‘The Hoagie Wagon’ by John Farquhar

Christmas Eve, the carpet in The Feathers
Stuck to my shoe, a little worse for beer
Angels, shepherds and virgins all drew near
In fancy dress to get one for the road
Mary kissed a shepherd on the mouth
While Jesus bought a babysham for her
And I remembered when I believed in love

I heard the clock on Sankey Street strike midnight
And knew for certain I’d miss Midnight Mass
But felt the call of Latchford, and the past
Made my excuse and left the madding crowd
To face Bridge Foot alone
Where the River Mersey wonders if it’s worth it
Tempted to renounce her struggle here and now
In Warrington, and stop the senseless flow for once and all
Weary, as the townsfolk are
Of all that life shows itself to not be

This cold will be the death of me, I thought
Ten pints of beer making their presence felt
But, I was young, and bladder-strong
And St Mary Street ten minutes at the most

I’ll pop in to The Oak Branch for a pee
Then go to mass and stand there at the back
And give the Catholic Church a final chance

Such were my thoughts, but Hell had other plans
For, before the bridge, I saw and smelt
The briny off-white smoke against the starless sky
And manger-like appearance
Of the pit-stop for lonely gourmet drunks
That was in those dead times The Hoagie Wagon.

The Hoagie Wagon
How have I survived it?
Arteries- take a bow, you just amaze me
The neon sign, the astonishing stink of brine
The limitless choice of hot-dog, or hot-dog
Made the way they make ‘em in The States
With gluttonous excess and self abuse
Their smallest roll one full foot long
From whose off-white ends protrude
Three so-called sausages
Of dubious gender, and rank
Dripping with God knows what
And extras, if you dared.

I dared that night: oh, God, I dared!
Freeing my stomach from the weight of soul
Giving up the Church for a Hoagie roll
United with my own primeval cause
Joyously alone
I walked to the edge of the Mersey
Where the varicose van was parked
And joined the sinners of my own free will
To cram my mouth with Hoagie
Even as the Host was being lifted
In Our Lady’s, where I used to pray

The line was long, and mostly single men
The cold, dark Mersey was the river Styx
We were sinners, heading for the Fall
I was twenty-one, and knew it all

In full knowledge of sin
I confirmed my Fall
To the man in the van
A hoagie with all the trimmings!

Onions on this one, Vera
The hoagie man replied.

About John Farquhar

John Farquhar pictured in Radio Warrington’s studios. John’s poem ‘The Hoagie Wagon’ came second in the station’s 2019/20 Poetry Competition ‘s Heritage Category.

John’s poem ‘The Hoagie Wagon’ will bring back memories for many Warringtonians. John was born in Latchford, Warrington, and educated at Liverpool University and St. John’s College, Oxford, where he studied French. He currently teaches European literature at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and French language and literature at Temple University, Philadelphia. He has had short stories and poems published in small magazines and anthologies, such as The New Oxford Magazine, Tall Tales and Short Stories, and Reading Glasses, and is the author of an indispensable guide to the Afterlife, What to Expect When You’re Dead. His epic tribute to Warrington, called Warrington Poems, is 108 pages of narrative poetry, divided into 9 sections, inspired by Dante, Chaucer and Bridge Foot. He has just completed a poetry collection called Hamstrung by Venus, which, he says, pretty much sums up his life in three words.

Watch the video

Watch John’s poem being performed by Warrington based actor Mark Willis:-

About the Author

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