Guerilla Garden Writing Poem 

The mouth of the city is tongued with tar 

its glands gutter saliva, teeth chatter in rail 

clatter, throat echoes car horns and tyre’s 

screech, forging new language: a brick city 

smoke-speak of stainless steel consonants 

and suffocated vowels. These are trees and 

shrubbery, the clustered flora battling all 

hours, staccato staggered through streets. 


Meet Rich and Eleanor on Brabourn Grove 

as he wrestles her wheelbarrow over cobble- 

stones to the traffic island by Kitto Road 

where this night, coloured a turquoise-grit, 

cathedral-quiet and saintly, makes prayer 

of their whispers and ritual of their work: 

bend over, clear rubble, cut weed and plant. 


But more than seeds are sown here. You 

can tell by his tender pat on tended patch; 

the soft cuff to a boy’s head – first day to 

school, by how they rest with parent-pride 

against stone walls, huff into winter’s cold, 

press faces together as though tulips might 

stem from two lips, gather spades, forks, 

weeds and go. Rich wheelbarrows back to 

Eleanor’s as vowels flower or flowers vowel 

through smoke-speak, soil softens, the city 

drenched with new language thrills and 

the drains are drunk with dreams. 


The sky sways on the safe side of tipsy 

and it’s altogether an alien time of half- 

life and hope, an after-fight of gentle fog 

and city smog, where the debris of dew drips 


to this narrative of progress, this city tale, 

this story is my story, this vista my song. 

I cluster in the quiet, stack against steel, 

seek islands, hope, and a pen to sow with. 


from Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars (Flipped Eye, 2011), © Inua Ellams 2011, used by permission of the author

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Inua Ellams was born in Nigeria and is now based in the UK, where he has become one of the UK’s most recognised cultural icons. He is ...