Thursday, 6 May 2010

East End

Irresistible forces compel me to go
through the smoke-filled places I used to know,
from the bridge where the Don and the Rother meet
to the Wicker Arches and Saville Street.
The Gates to Hell as I used to think,
where hopes would be vanquished and hearts would sink
as the tram approached from the city side:
a monument now to Civic Pride.
The Gates to Hell, but no longer so,
for the smoking chimneys and furnace glow,
the iron and steel and the shunting tracks,
the cobbled yards and the back-to-backs
are vanished, and only the names remain
of Attercliffe Common and Brightside Lane,
Berkley and Belmoor and Carltonville,
the wreck of a foundry, the tomb of a mill,
in cairns of rubble awaiting the day
when even they will be carted away,
and who knows what shimmering phoenix may spring
from the ashes where so many yesterdays cling.
But pasts more than mine in the ashes are strewn,
where wealth came too late and destruction too soon,
and my gratitude falls and my garlands are laid
on the riches their decades of labour have made.

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