Metallic Heart

Dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum,
The elevated train passes overhead
Like a metallic heartbeat,
Rolling on and dying in the distance.
This used to be the old coal line,
Hundred years back. Where black stacks
Were dragged to the docks where
The ship canal still waits patiently
For us to remember why we
Disturbed the earth to make it.
If you walk from this bridge up the hill,
Past the shanty town of small shops,
Broken-glass bus stops and cider bottles,
Past the chipped-green benches
With their broken slats and weary backs,
Up to the old back to back housing, it’s cobbles
All the way. I love the feel of them
Underfoot. It’s like walking on lost memories, on
Grey-matter somehow turned to stone.
Their perfect roundness ruined by countless feet
That trudged these streets each dawn, and came
Home blacker than a shortening shadow.
Home to those tiny brick houses,
Back to back to back to back,
That simply drop away down the valley
In lines so steep you almost walk on tiptoes.
And there beyond the city-smoke, just out of reach,
Is the green
Earth that rings this empty-pocket world like a wreath.
But if you look east on a clear day you can just see
The city centre from here, all re-built in glass,
And standing so straight, so proud, so young.
So sure that it is what people need.
Another train passes,
Dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum,
Metal hearts rust it seems, l hope
The glass ones will do better.

James Scott