Downtime in Digbeth

A breeze catspaws
The level face
Of a canal
Buddleia and graffiti compete
To hide an abandoned past
Forgotten Victorians
Ingeniously forged
This world with
Sparks and flames of optimism
From the midlands earth
Placid waterways
Cross without clashing
Proudly riding
Over a wildly falling
Brown and flooding river
Brick, glass and steel
Form industrial canyons
Train tracks
Scorn gravity
On mighty arches
But today all is silent
Bar hissing lock gates
Shivering trees
And my lone gravelly steps
This town has fallen
Into dis-use
The once-riotous pubs
Now struggling or closed
The library has found a new use
And all that was proudly modern
Appeals in vain for rescue
Grieving, peeling, rusting
Even pavements
Along which once
Well-booted workmen hurried
Have melted into
Vague undulations
Of broken stone
And spattered tar
Lapidary signs
Emblazoned across fronts
Are reduced to unfinished sentences
By crude demolitions
And on the front
Of a small factory-turned-gallery
An artist* has pasted a bold pastiche
On the only billboard around here
It shouts
At me and these empty streets
But even this strange promise
Is rapidly growing ragged
The paper, falling forward
As if something toxic
Is in the air

*Andy Willett at Eastside Projects

© September 2012 Paul O’Kane