Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Runners up Poem 1: Street life in Preston by Joan Yates

The sun rose with little enthusiasm,
over the Preston skyline,
tinting the anaemic dawn a rosier hue.
In the late spring of ‘thirty-nine the
threat of war hung in the air, thicker than
the mist that hovered over the River Ribble.

Hooters wailed their melancholy tune,
summoning dockers and factory workers
for the early shift; their clogs clattering
over uneven cobbles, a staccato sound,
gathering momentum, as millworkers
tumbled out of terraced houses, joining the exodus.

Women in metal curlers, resembling alien
invaders, gossiped in a huddle on the corner.
Some, heavily pregnant, wore floral smocks
with coats that didn’t quite meet at the edges.

Boys, wearing ragged breeches and
‘hand me down’ jerseys, played marbles
and fired catapults in a back alley.
A battle scarred tom-cat, nine lives fast
diminishing, dodged their missiles.

Chimneys belched thick smoke into the air
as tubercular scarred lungs coughed up
threads of scarlet, paying, in painful
instalments, the heavy price that the
industrial north demanded from its people.

A child, too small to see over the hood,
pushed a pram, jiggling its noisy occupant.
Born into poverty, they shoulder a precious
burden, their parents’ hopes and dreams.
A fragile link to a better future.

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