In our Hearts
By the old hospital the mini-cab drivers still say,
everyone says, though there’s no hospital now
except in the mind, only a high dark blue hoarding
with Homes and Communities Agency stencilled
in white, along with A new heart for East Greenwich.
The demolition’s long finished and the vast space
is closed by double metal gates, where today
an object glints in the sun, stuck into the gap
for the padlock chain, a long cellophane wrapper
protecting something brown and curled up like a creature
preserved at its moment of dying. The flower
wasn’t a rose: maybe a lily, exotic.
There’s a sky blue ribbon and a small card that’s faded
so all you can read through the condensation
is part of a pre-printed, curlicued message,
…in our hearts. You can see through the gap here:
first is a concrete block, but what ram-raider
would try to get in, into this rank wasteland
of rubble and last year’s flowers and grasses, where spring
has not arrived? The site is bumpy like a frozen sea
or an unmarked burial ground.
(first published in South Bank Poetry, 2011)
Poem for a friend
The wave mills everything to rubble
and floats detritus along its running edge
towards empty streets, a few cars
escaping screen right –
until the focus moves to a road on the outskirts,
a cyclist in a white top, helmeted
head down, riding. It may
be only a matter of time, though there’s hope
while the wave’s out of the picture.
What does it sound like, a roar,
a new kind of thunder?
I’m not even sure he existed, or was filmed
or if he was, that I saw him –
but I see him now and think of you
trying to outride your tsunami, not knowing
how close it is, how fast,
how much you can hope for.