Poem: Merrie City

Photo: Tom Broadbent
Photo: Tom Broadbent

Here in the home of smoke and smog, my hometown grey,

heirloom of mines, the steam and the fog, where evening plays

on the moorland spine to colliers’ paces

and the northern wind that weathered their faces

 

still gnarls in the teeth of the two a.m. frost;

here where tomorrow is always lost

in the death of the streetlamps hung in their hats,

their spluttering, fizzling, last-rite laughs

 

like the dark psalms stammered in the vestry’s dusk;

here where communion no longer tolls, where cathedral musk

is a godless ghost beneath ten dead bells,

and the cold throat belfry is an old shack shell

 

for the alleyway hobo in his passing breath,

and his cat which brims on the edge of death;

here where the fieldlamp’s first candled flame

is its last, and the quarry’s trace, a stain

 

over skin, casts the shadow of a grieving face,

(the memento mori of this town), this dead grey place

where the factory black is the cradle we sing to,

the sack where we sleep is the home that we cling to,

 

only here come here to the city’s dark heart,

only here come here to the tubes in its arms,

the industrial crack, these towers of ash,

where we think of the poverty coffins we’ll have.