If Smells are Insipid

If smells are insipid –
Then the landlady’s cooked supper
Lacks frankincense –
A pole-cat scent touches the ceiling;
The room is redolent with sour pork –

If streets are named after saints –
This crabbed avenue wears no halo –
After sunset the council-house tenants
Wear a wish-washed frown –
The children mostly look like pickled peppers
And the mothers are ill-flavoured lollipops –

If sounds mean sometimes melody
The ice-cream van gives me a concert
Per minute of discordant flats –
Jarring bells help sell a thousand icy treats
The driver-musician plays road minstrel
From morning into night –
As cheap cars and motor-bikes
Add noise to noise –

If idealism comes from an intellectual mind –
Only the ghost of my dream now walks –
I cannot view this scene with intelligence –
Only a troubled stare takes in the crowd –
My reverie is cornered like the fool –
And held in chains that no-one can undo –

If the pulse-beat of the city is its people
Alas, the heart of this city is flickering to death –
Only the sea snatches the wind
And blows it across the grey cement –
Only a restless gull shrieks discontent –

Occasionally the day seems
In possession of itself
Until the newsreader tells the time –
And I feel all the seconds lost –
The whole city is up-for-sale –
There’s an economy in selling cities
And tucked inside the Treasurer’s pocket
Are press-cuttings from the local press
Telling of the merchandise of souls –

If cheapness speaks of poverty and debt –
This booty is the grand prize –
A million untidy, unemployed people –
Walking in the rain –
Their resistance and my own –
To adversity in cities like this…
Is to enjoy the rain –
Receiving it from Heaven, then
Washing our hands of affection and favourite spots –
We are divorced from life –
Seclusion in our walk is all
I now respect!

Shänne Sands, Fidelity is for Swan (FootSteps Press 2010)

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