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Joined: 9-01-06
Feb 28 2007 12:09

here we go: (this is one about my hometown, about identity and social mythology.)


In another life, we were
Jewish, or so my miniature,
Alcoholic and Scottish great-grandmother said.

I never knew her
But they get tight-lipped
When I ask; too much
Downed cheap whisky and smoke-yellowed walls.
It was a cancerous town, for that generation.
Too many doomed shipyards, looming,
Creaking and without contracts to fill,
On the wind-battered and coarse Irish Sea coast.
Further north than anyone who loves the
Light should rightly settle.
Too many despairing ex-shipping workers
Red hang-dog faces, limp, futurelessly marooned on the Social.
Dole queue officials shake their heads,
In disgust; jobs?! round here?
Try moving south, try Manchester.
Otherwise sign on, have another 10 fags and another midmorning beer.
In another life I was
Seraphim, or perhaps cherubim,
A bundled-up mess of energetic blonde.
She was a fantasist, that woman,
Just one of the Crabtrees, Glasses, or McLeods.

We had brown curtains and brown carpets.

And the three metre wide houses, two-up-two-down
Were, and remain, slate and shingle grey.
Shipyard employee houses, dormitories.
Quarters for faceless serfs after the trauma of
Clearances from Highland crops.
Raggle-taggle refugees trailing down from their lands
To greysmoke cities, and life labourng in some kind of factory.
Then, as economics betray them again, in some unfathomable way
Raggle-taggle refugees trailing down
Across the borderlands On Their Bikes To Find Work
Crowded together outside the gates.
At five o'clock the knocking-off siren sounds, and
Thousands spill through the gates to head home for tea,
All dressed the same, flat caps and brown.
You wouldn't want to try going
Against that tide.

With them come, to cook that tea and mend those trews,
Hard womenfolk, tough-eyed and harsh-handed
A short life each spent brooding, burying and smacking
Scrappy backstreet children in long socks;
Themselves to leave pointless school at fourteen
For the Merchant Navy, the railways and the docks.
Somewhere in their psychogeography, a bit further out than pub and offy
Haunts at the edges a mute memory of long roads from
Forests, wolves and enclosures, filtered through the
1800s slums of Scots cities.
Conversations marked by an odd peninsula accent, and views
Geometrically screened by row
Upon row upon row upon row of tiny chimney-pots.
Beyond that, only the lashing sea, and on a good day
The Isle of Man.

Marion, claiming herself so exotic;
A daydream to soothe the lifelong toil?
The peasants that you were, we remain.
Each generation dispossessed all over again.