Sandmartins, Kelham Island
As if machines at rest
as if gorging on espresso
as if practising unwelcome faith
as if sizing up a property
they bet on stone
industry slumped, curled into curiosity
factory smells twisted into neighbourhoods
mills morphed into apartments or museums
the speculators eyed rates of return
hipsters scented coffee and craft beer
and in a draughty hall saints spoke in tongues
as if all this were not the action
as if they know the clock is running down
as if conscious of a sixth extinction
as if connected to a slower rhythm
they bet on stone
That February Saturday, you just eleven
and fire enough inside you to stop history.
Fire enough inside to last the journey,
the broken train, the biting wind.
What if they had listened?
They should have heard you. At Green Park
we found a wall, tight as a pigeon’s perch,
and scanned the crowds. One million people:
this is how to rage, I told you, when the placards
said Make Tea Not War.
If a million people march someone will listen.
I don’t know who said that now: a lesson
you disproved too young. After that, you fought
too many battles on your own, got bruised
too many times.
If a million people laugh someone might listen.
I’d like to think it true: one day we’ll laugh
until the ground shakes, laugh until foundations
crumble, laugh till every rotten branch
snaps from the tree.
We haven’t laughed enough. We need to laugh
like blizzards, laugh like floods, laugh
like desert heat. We need to board that train,
stand at their gates. We need to find our friends
again, link hands, laugh them to dust.
Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield and his poetry blog is at https://52poemsinayear.wordpress.com
An incident on the Heads of the Valleys Road
What song was playing when the windscreen crazed?
In that interminable instant
when the block’s edge struck the glass
did you breathe before the sirens formed a descant?
Who were you anyway? Just a taxi driver
making ends meet, taking scabs to work.
That was enough. We’d lived on soup and favours
far too long. Our patience had to break.
We were drowning, breath by breath.
The mood was foul, but not ferocious as it looked,
those boys not half as mad as folk believed.
They only meant to warn you, just to shake
you up a bit. And after that our lights
snuffed too. The way the shoppers glared
– or didn’t – when we ventured on the streets.
‘Dig deep!’ we called, into our beards,
our seams well nigh exhausted. We talked
of pride, but listlessly, like long forgotten
lovers. We spoke of fighting, but baulked
even at the prospect of retreat. We battened
down. Our women cursed our lack of spirit.
Our hope fell slack, lung-shrunk as emphysema.
All history now. The hills are so much greener.
So much more empty air to uninhabit.
Biog: Julian is an apprentice poet and lives in Sheffield. http://52poemsinayear.wordpress.com