In a strange town the woman gives me directions:
straight down and turn right where the cinema was,
take a left where the Working Men’s Club used to be.
I lose myself in her youth’s ghost topography.

Each return visit to the place where I ran errands
builds phantom structures: the coal yard [now houses],
red brick mill chimney [more houses], the gas works
[apartments], canal, lime green with algae, [an amenity].

A young mother wakes at night to the crunch-thud
of coal sacks, flatmates dream of curved metal walls
like a spaceship, the moon sets off the howl
of the engine house, the low groan of barges.

Our minds move across the present like a coin on
a scratch card. Let me tell you, this city has layers,
breaking through wherever one person remembers.
There are millions of us spinning bricks and mortar.

My favourite ghost story. Winter’s evening, he’s off for
a pint, heads along a street bustling with bygone crowds
about their daily business. Witness to a haunting− or
does he stumble on a world of someone else’s making?

Look into the smoked-glass window of an office block,
a row of two-bed terraced stares back at you, trapped
by the passing thought of a passer-by. The multi-storey
carpark rattles in the wind. This entire city is possessed.

Annette Skade