Poem by Julia McGuinness

At Port Sunlight

The houses are gracious here, hold

respectful distance from the road;

sentinelled with chimneys, grass-locked

islands of secrets, packaged in blocks.

But how these old-timers can talk!

 

Hear them argue their origins,

old friends animated over a pint:

half-timbered assertions of Evolution:

a village that rose from the swamp;

red-bricked insistence on Creation:

an orderly paradise forged by design.

 

Their eaves breathe profit and palm oil

from vats that boil, seeping into scent

of hyacinths, bleached and lined in beds.

Ghost echoes criss-cross their walls:

clop of hooves on stone: The Master rides,

warmed by ‘his’ children’s laughter.

 

Their world was simple as soap and water,

towelled in timetables, welfare and faith

in the pure march of progress.

But the air flicks a tear: for five hundred

once sheltered, lost in Flanders fields.

Silence as you face them then

 

their glassy stare turns to cottage charm.

Sedate, they pose, all Mona Lisa smiles,

scrubbed fronts in the sunlight;

backyard, residents tidied from sight:

model village.

 

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Poem by Julia McGuinness

Ship Gate from Chester City Walls

The hole in the Wall was not cast aside
but borne, piece by piece, to the Park,
a stone’s throw away, and re-assembled
as breath held across a path.

Its grainy sandstone frame, braced
against weight of sky, rainbows
an open space that lacks the gate
to separate ship from city.

Scabbed over with slabs, the Wall
is unsettled as all torn places
when mended. Gaps, transplanted
to discreet glades, lace through lives.

They seep memories, mapped by scars,
wince under strangers’ stumblings,
are anointed by their listenings. Spaces
honoured, enfleshed alike by sun and rain.

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