The city cut from a mountain 

We waited for the windiest day to burn the forest,
flame handed from branch to waving branch.
High-pressure hoses cleared the soil,
the loose shale, until it was naked as an egg.

Then lasers, drills, giant crunching worms,
sand-blasters, down and in:
it made a ringed city, with a spiral road
that opened gently as a paper flower in water.

The houses were for us, winners of a lottery.
We left the broken glass of the old city,
that bowl of smog between chalk hills,
to live inside high granite walls.

In summer the rock was cool.
In winter, water from hot springs
was forced through drilled capillaries
until our houses shone with warmth.

That first New Year’s we built bonfires
on our rooves, cooked sausages on skewers,
wore our city uniforms of white wool.
Everything was fixed. Everyone fitted.

If you had two kids you had two bedrooms.
Later, if you had two bedrooms you had two kids.
In some studio flats, they found children
carved from the rock, polished red stone.


It throws a yellow net and waits
with cool bones, hot head and aching elbow—
patient as the man who stands, arm out,
holding bottle after bottle
for marathon runners to grab at as they pass.

It condemns me, says:
Your head is empty as an eggshell scraped clean
waiting to be turned over and have its bottom bashed in.
No matter how hard you work
you can only glean the smallest sliver of all that is,
tiny as the filament in my empty bulb. See how it glows.

First published in Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry In The UK