In Search Of Milk And Paradise


heeley (sheffield) autumn 1988

dodging the broken bottles
dog-shit the pavement spew
i wheel my young son matthew
through the heeley streets
shop to shop this early
morning (short of milk)
unsettled day – the sun
comes through the clouds in
ragged strips where windy
rain has had the night
to puff and piddle

puddles idle in
the dips of surfaces
neglected for decades

another place where caring’s
lost a public vision
only detritus of hope
dares poke its battered
visage out of doors

no pride here on pavements
what’s local’s long been
squashed – wealth’s dogs
prefer more stately
avenues to piss up

the air is fresh
i’m moving briskly
getting a lift from
my negotiating skills

take a buggy on
two wheels to skirt
a sudden pool a twirl
past faeces – a kind of
hop-scotch over jags
of milky glass – and come
to stop on a hillside
where slopes of grass drop
sleekly on what were
backs of houses

i’m out of breath
a darkness ripples
past my eyes and knocks
on my unfitness
i am locked for one
brief aeon as a rock
that’s held its place upon
this hill inscrutably

a wildness explodes
from every blade of grass
i touch upon deep springs
(a healing flow upsurging
through the shit and glass
the torn-down homes)

my body’s lapped – my
old eyes washed of dirt
a comb’s gone through the
landscape at my feet
the muck’s redeemed

a larger time lets
nothing be what is
but everything is used
for what is coming

today-defunct breeds
trees that bloom tomorrow
nothing’s next step on
is one – what’s poor is
where new worlds are just
beginning – the shit
spew glass the death
of hope have done their time

(cartons which the future’s
thrown away as minds
and spirits snout amongst
the refuse seeking forms
to dress their fresh selves in)

the meek are gathered
in millions on this hill
disparaged destitute
of any say in this
dead time as others
roll their tongues
round easy riches

but here’s the future
too – a start of ages
a cry whose agony’s
a pinprick or a seedling
a drib of red and green
the statute’s blind to

across the valley
sheffield snarls itself
to this day’s life
its smoke-tuned buildings
boxed-in by the past
(upheavals mortised in
its joints make it confused)

for all its roar it
slumbers through its present
wanting its glory back
the talk of its old
workers flawed with steely
pride (that stainless stain)
there’s no dawn there – its power
and wealth have long borne
all its sons away

it’s in the detritus
i stand in (in this mix
of race and stymied
passion heeley has become
– and all such cast-off
cesspits of our dreams)
the not-yet written
songs of human dignity
are not yet being sung

the shudder leaves me
i’m just this oldish
man with his youngest son
pushing a buggy through
scarred heeley streets
more concerned to get
no shit upon the wheels
than to hold a sand-grain
to the world and turn
its atoms inside out

i’ll not live to see
the newlaid honest
pavements going down
and houses have that look
within their glass that sings
of confidence-returned

i push on up the hill
(to where my oldest son
has done his house up)
once more safely in
the compound of my
aging flesh talking
with matthew playing
buggy games

only that after
so many sorry shops
i’d found one that did
sell milk – the morning
cup of tea reclaimed

the real world put to rights

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