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