Broken Water

Dog black-and-white it flits,
skips in a gutter,
happy rubbish on the wind,
jerks in a gust, like traffic,
ducks and drakes across the city

past halls smelling of polish and parquet,
past halls smelling of cats and cabbage,
past tower-blocks and announced cement,
past dinner-houses of children scattered in play,
past the troops that do not work,
past the force that do not work,
past the idle. 

It ducks and drakes across the city
dumb as rag
and blind where children are not pretty,
where roomfuls of family
do not burst from the curtained crevices,
where workless people remain unending
deaf and simple and uncomprehending
it ducks and drakes
past the hospitals
with the azure pictures of threatened lakes. 

Beneath your feet an essence is running,
thick as oil, thick as drumming, an early
dark madness we had forgotten:
the sewers are swollen,
boxes and cardboard and cartons of water,
all that is used, unused, undone
kept by habits that tremble under ground,
all effort to contain exhausted
are vomiting sound, vomiting sound. 

All the parts are leaving,
clocks and daylight,
shops, factory, obedience, girls;
a bull of water swells,
boxes and cardboard and cartons of water,
wet symbols like bells
clatter in a flow of water and loss,
decay itself, removing us. 

In these unused canals a flood,
derelictions that rattle on the light
and call to the body of your unemployed blood.
Where are the gifts
of the chain-department-store
and further, further there is more. 

Behind you the pigeons cooing like pneumonia
and as always as hunger, unsteady cats. 

Your small heart is cracking like bottles. 

Not thought nor faith nor objects holds
in this broken water or arthritic catch. 


by Howard Mingham, 1952-1983