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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