‘The earth, the sea and the human spirit …’

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.‎

Chris Fewings

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