The North-South Divide


fills with flood-water;
the bows of Scotland lift clear
of the Atlantic, cod roam
the East Anglian plains; kelp
throttles Sherwood, the chimneys
of the Midlands slowly barnacle,
Cumbria tilts;
congers lie in catacombs
cold-wiring our relics,
our kings’ bones;
a whale hangs a moment
singing in the vault
of St Paul’s; men dive
through their Southern libraries,
where crabs unpick the calfskin
of our histories;
Stratford Under Avon
is swanless and rip-tidal,
hagfish haunt Leicester Square,
anglerfish twinkle
through Trafalgar’s oyster beds.
Look from Manchester
out to sea: the South you knew
from quiz shows and road maps,
from nursery rhymes and bad news
is gathering a storm
to its heaving,
heavy-breakered bosom.

from The Brink (Picador, 2005), © Jacob Polley 2003, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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