(A poem in progress)
Brindley’s canal follows the contours
through a mix of greys and browns, yards and workshops,
half hidden behind tangled branches,
under a sky the colour of stovepots, the sun well hidden.
A spit of rain across my face has the feel of December
though the calendar tells me that it’s April.
Nothing much moves; the fishing sites along the towpath
are all deserted. Blackthorn blossom on a stretch of scrubby hedge
is discoloured, dirty, the petals past their sell-by.
Those yards and buildings still in use
all look the other way, this canal is no longer relevant.
And many of them are merely derelict, shabby remnants
of the days when industry still meant bashing metal.
A cat stalks across one yard, intent on something I can’t see.
My eye is caught by a flash of yellow - coltsfoots,
rushing into flower well ahead of their leaves,
poke their scaly stems up through brick dust,
defiantly insisting that even under these clouds it has to be spring.
Up ahead of me a tangle of metal: pipes and girders
are twisted and turned to create a lattice tower,
seeming almost to touch the clouds; at their base
the bright green of the new growth of nettles.
Whatever this thing was, it no longer functions:
the adjoining buildings are roofless. But then, out of nowhere
it seems, a lifting, rolling, tumbling life force
in a russet red to defy the dark and grime of this day:
a kite, display flying for the sheer hell of it.
Or so it seems to me; the length of each wing amazes,
the fork of the tail, the way the bird tumbles
through the lattice, seems to be just falling, then recovers,
lifts back, sweeps away, banks round, returns.
I for my part cannot move. In the remains of old industry,
a new and dancing endeavour; and, as if in answer,
the clouds shift and in a burst of sunlight
the twisted metal itself catches fire, seems to dance.
Then all is still; but somewhere, a robin sings.