They walk into the wind, stopping to bend
and examine snowdrops. Having moved
away from the piled high flats with a view
of warehouse backs, where once there were
shipments and now there are guns,
they can’t shake off the city. Rely on buses,
the companionship of others, wiping a hole
in the smeared window to see the streets go past,
conversation and smoke with strangers
waiting in the queue.
Sheila’s mother’s old house was knocked down
and Bill once found a fairground horse
submerged in a disused dock, and did it up.
They still go to Enfield for paints
and wool for Sheila’s knitting.
These are the margins that might become home.
Where they can sit by the mill pond to read or
talk to passers by. The pool below the bridge
is a remembered place; pin on the end
of a cotton reel, to catch a dog fish,
see your face in the canal, dive in to make it disappear.
No racket, only hedges. They watch blackbirds
and ringdoves all afternoon:
‘Lovely to see them so close up’.
Bill in his cap, Sheila in her one good coat.
Neat and precise as brass safety pins,
two bright golden splashes at the edge
of the wood, among the fugitive sparrows.
Old Londoners is taken from the book, The Shape of Us (Shoestring Press, Nottingham, 2010, ISBN 1 907356 07 0. Cover illustration: Rachel Birkett.)