Walking Through Birmingham on a Freezing Day

Grey buildings stand tall, form a canyon
from the Art School and chops between
the Coroners building and Lloyd’s Bank.
A no-mans land of back doors, discreet signs
a decrepit red phone box, where funnelled wind
billows my tight-held coat, accents its thinness,
the drab distance home.
Feet throb, damp with sleet and the bus stop
I need is a pole with no shelter.
In Victoria Square litter flutters like
torn-down flags, catches upon balls of stone
where students perch in summertime,
a million weeks away.
Shivers tremble bones, rivulets nip my spine,
shade me from charcoal to black.
This city is high, hilly, cudgelled by wind and rain,
a useful opener topic for all and sundry.
Head down, I flow over pavements,
through winter-wrapped bodies cold as I am,
never making eye-contact that invites collision
or a dodge-me dance and false apologies.
Past Gormleys’ stoic Iron Man,
misery bends those who dodge into shops
for half a minutes heat,
a newspaper they don’t want.
A fountain gushes a watery umbrella,
splatters pavement, unfortunate shoes.
The pool on my left slaps in the wind,
sharp as skin on skin.
I dodge spiteful spray, head downhill,
breathe calmer warmth through a corridor
of lighted windows, past praying-mantis poses
of mannequins in office-girl clothes
past stacked walls of white goods
piled in consumerist monuments.
I enter a bus, full and fuggy.
Traffic crawls as I sink into its bought respite.
Behind me the city readies itself for night.

Miki Byrne