The poem below was published in Ink, Sweat & Tears (edited by Helen Ivory) in 2014. The recording below was made by Rob Peters, at a reading I gave in Kings Heath.
The earth, the sea and the human spirit are getting tired of the city
The city writes a city in its margins
And writes another city at its core.
The city writes the lives of other people –
Erases some, engraves some in its stone.
The city writes a blue plaque on a lifetime.
A lifetime writes a weary back-and-forth
From house to street, from bus stop to the office.
The office writes its boredom on a face.
The banknotes squiggle faces on a thumbprint.
The currency has launched itself downstream.
The bridge divides the suburbs, poor and wealthy.
The tracks are laid; the tanks are coming in.
The artist’s splodging paint. The pot is spinning.
The loom is throwing light on woven light.
The texture of the city is its people.
The people are in mothballs. Taken fright.
The ache of living’s numbing: gulping stories
I stagger down the road to down a pint.
The milkman starts his round in early morning
And finds me as a digger finds a coin.
He finds me as a digger finds a helmet.
He finds me as he excavates a sword.
He finds a heap of rust – he finds a fossil.
He finds a trace of life, he finds a pulse.
He finds me and he floats me down the river.
He finds me and he sends me out to sea.
He questions all my remnants as he pushes
The raft I’m on, the water under me.
He swims beside me till we find a dolphin.
He swims behind me when we find a whale.
The city’s far behind, the milk abandoned.
The sea just rattles, gargles TCP.
The sea has taken ill; it’s in the city.
The sea wants back its poisoned life again.
The sea is washing up upon your doorstep.
The bankers float the currency and groan.
They’re racing for the stairs – the lift is broken.
The cleaners block their way with seven mops.
‘The clean-up job will take a generation.’
In private the PM admits we’re stuffed.
The journos get the story but the paper
Is pulping in the river – there’s a jam
Of logs that days ago were living giants.
There’s a funeral of bonfires in the town.
There’s a race to save your skin and to adorn it
With painted pictures from another age.
There’s a city pushing wildlife to the margins.
There are teeth tearing off the city’s skin.
There are questions I would ask you – come back here now!
There are times we never met and days we missed –
Those unsaid words you’re scrawling on your haunches –
Those ways we never did it, unborn kids.
There are places round the corner we could go to.
There are friends we have who never came to tea.
There are plants we never planted in our garden.
There are trees to climb and promises to make.
She shook me off: the earth was getting stronger.
The earth was shitting out the city’s shit.
My days of dirt were done: earth called me faithless.
She said that she was dying, gave a roar.