working class

Original Text: 
Bertram warr, The Collected Poems of Bertram Warr: Acknowledgment to Life, ed. Leo Gasparini, pref. by Earle Birney (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1970): 25-26.
2in cool, dim lane, where evening
3comes like a procession through the aisles at passion-tide,
4filling the church with quiet prayer dressed in white.
5We have known no hills where sea-winds sweep up the thyme perfume,
6and crush it against our nostrils, as we stand by hump-backed trees.
7We have felt no willow leaves pluck us timidly
8as we pass on slack rivers;
9a kiss, and a stealing away, like a lover who dares no more.
10For we are the walkers on pavement,
11who go grey-faced and given-up through the rain;
12with our twice turned collars crinkled,
13and the patches bunched coarsely in our crotches.
14They have gashed the lands with cities,
15and gone away afraid when the wounds turned blue.
16Beauty has crept into the shelves of squat buildings,
17to stare out strangely at us from the pages of Keats,
18and the wan and wishful Georgian leaves.
19These are our birthright, smoke and angry steel,
20and long stern rows of stone, and wheels.
21We are left with the churches, the red-necked men who eat oysters,
22and stand up to talk at us in the approved manner.
23We are left with the politicians who think poorly of us,
24and who stand back with chaos in their pale old eyes
25whimpering, ."That is not what we wanted. No,
26it was not to have gone that way.."
27They are very old, but we have been very ill,
28and cannot yet send them away.
29But there are things that still matter, something yet within us:
30nights of love, bread and the kids,
31and the cheek of the woman next door,
32thoughts that glitter sometimes like a ruby on a mud-flat,
33dreams that stir, and remind us of our blood.
34Though the cities straddle the land like giants, holding us, away,
35we know they will topple some day,
36and will lie over the land, dissolving and giving off gases.
37But a wind will spring up to carry the smells away
38and the earth will suck off the liquids and the crumbling flesh,
39and on the bleached bones, when the sun shines,
40we shall begin to build.

Notes

1] Cf. John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale." Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: