The Willenhall Road (Bilston, South Staffordshire) by Michael Thomas


All I was
is now an island
on a late, over-budget expressway.

Tyres curve importantly over my shadow
as once it threw itself down
in the first hesitations of summer—
when we would gather at the gate
of the house with the lone sycamore,
hear the weighty faff of the shunt-yard,
watch the chimney-stalks as they gave out
prosperity and filth
to drift west and baffle the Shropshire hills.

A morning cyclist, brave or mad,
shreds the echo of older voices at the gate,
the flecks of war still on them—
their murmurs, approving or not,
of the names that stitched what my childhood wore:
Macmillan, Presley, Gagarin, Douglas-Home,
that Keeler, that Lennon—
the whole flock of thats rising up on the sodium dusk
to dottle the roofs and terrify the starlings.

My first ever kiss is routinely flattened
by deliverymen with slots to tick tick tick.
The day I left is drenched
by cut-up merchants
going lost in the home-time spray.

Only the small hours
call back to the island
the shimmer of walls and coping-stones,
the brush of smoke and laughter.
Only a single fox
commanding the moon-bled lanes
has care enough to step over my heart,
to skirt around my beginnings.


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