HOME: How to build an old brick terrace in Brum.
from a sequence of seven poems
1. Mangla Dam, 1960; Elan Valley Reservoir, 1892
Seven houses in our street. In the first
a family of seven, three generations –
for the telling of this tale they are Mirpuri.
Imagine the domes of mosques keeping
their heads above water in a hydroelectric
reservoir. That’s Mirpur, drowned by a dam,
its people flowing out to English factories
to build communities in terraces,
new mosques; to spice meat-and-two-veg
with chilli, haldi, fresh coriander grown
with Welsh water and sold in new shops on corners
of surprised suburbs and slums. Red brides, bright
shalwar-kameez, bhangra and Bollywood
land on black-and-white weddings and TV.
Black-and-white weddings and TV land
on the pile of memories in the skip outside
No. 2: photos from a mantlepiece
above a fire that burned black coal to warm
a couple who’d spent their married decades there.
She’d scrub his Sunday shirts white, and he
would scrub black oil from his hands each evening,
back from the engineering works by bus.
Their daughter finds a ration book in a drawer,
a National Service number; a union card.
After her mother’s black-and-white funeral
her father moves into a Council care home
which has no room for memories. She places
coloured flowers on a grave in serried ranks.
Chris Fewings lives in Birmingham and writes poems (some published on Ink Sweat & Tears and elsewhere), stories (including A Glossary of my Grandmother) and articles. He also hosts poetry groups at Balsall Heath Library and elsewhere. His website is at www.chris.fewin.gs.