6 November 2017
A few poems written over the last couple of weeks.
Sunrise itself was a flaming portent of frost
bleeding through the curtains, and
it seemed certain that Sheffield had been created
at the moment of our son’s conception, no earlier.
Furthermore, that the entirety of evolution covered only
the span of my life, that I was Attenborough’s city at
the bottom of the Mariana Trench, a thermal vent
spontaneously birthing hydrocarbons
that in a sackful of years would swarm the land.
Despite the perfect sharpness of rooftops and
next door’s weathervane, the glorious silhouettes of trees,
somewhere, fireworks were being released, and
the living room seemed littered with mugs although
there were only three, and the wood burner suddenly and
silently bloomed with petals the colour of a robin’s breast;
evidently, you had set a fire and then left for work.
I saw a city that constantly frowned into the mirror
held up by its patriarchs, asking Why
am I ugly?
It sought to suck souls, a ghoul
for centuries wolfing the flesh of hopes
like a plughole angrily draining a grimy bath.
The outer cells of the city, cancerous and hateful,
crowded around a pretty nucleus, jealously;
It looked to its big sisters for style advice,
megatropoles setting trends in stolen steel,
but secretly coveted the days of the hut,
of the mile-wide world on a coin.
The city offered its children employment and drugs,
culture and violence,
education and blasé sex;
rose into hills and stripped its deeply-rooted assets.
It ate grime and happiness,
evolved wildlife that thrived on a knife-edge,
dwarfed history with commerce;
it forced survival by drawing heartbeats
from the four winds,
heartbeats from the forgotten cobbles,
and droplets of blood from the brows of a multitude of Christs. So
I made this city my home,
threw my arms around it, and began to cherish it.
When I heard the waspish scrizz of a moped from beyond the grave
yard, hoping for an illusion of speed, that battle cry
challenging adulthood to do its worst,
I thought about the Christmas evening you and your sister skirmished with
your uncle-to-be like naughty bear cubs;
about the waistcoat and tie that traumatised you as page boy,
your whole face closed in a squint against the October sun,
the crookedness of your buttonhole, how you’d lost it come the photos;
about the now-uncle catching you, years later, fagging it outside
Taplin Road stores, how the game was to pretend that you weren’t,
that you’d not seen each other, even, and
whether you’d go to that sort of trouble now,
and for whom.
L’Etoile du Nord
He surprised himself by pulling up outside St. Paul’s Central Library,
recalled Wild Things, his Damascus road trip reaching an abrupt end.
Rain fell like angry dancers
capering and cavorting, a wild rumpus,
the car full of tension carried through the nights, like cancer, from Vermont.
Permitted one eye to search out an advocate, a star of the north,
one who might lead him to where he could pay his dues
to these twins cocooned by the umbilical Old Man.
The other eye, meanwhile, quelled the kids’ unrest with a cold spark
before harking back like a sinner once simply lost
but now lost and running. And in the park,
stroked bronzes loitered, humiliated by the weather
and the apocalyptic censoring of the sun,
rooted in a hated place like melancholy weeds,
missed by the tourist whose nose was in a guidebook,
and who through no fault of his own (he was an alien himself, sorry)
could offer neither a room nor the godly
balm of even temporary blindness.