Cattle stumbling their way down to the shallows. The water’s coolness
Rising to meet them. Their hooves
Dry and hard against a clatter of loose stones etc…

Having rusted not quite closed, the sluice gate’s
Cast iron lip runs with several downward streaks
Of wet sunlight etc…

Brushstrokes painted on a long-ago afternoon, and erased—
The strands of current drift midstream, their several
Interlocking patterns describe etc…

Etc. etc. etc…


Isn’t it time I trashed such childhood memories?
Too comforting? Too prelapsarian? After all,
I live in the electric city and the electric city lives in me.
My pulse is the traffic’s stop-and-go.
What I know of love and friendship
names the only streets I care for.


How come I’m helter-skeltering back to—where?

And for what?
Would I smother the weekly supermarket checkout queue in flowers,
weeds and swaying willow herb?
Scythe down a field of bankers and business magnates (row
upon sleek row baled and stacked, ready
to be recycled into something useful)?

Hardly. And yet…

Almost overnight, our city’s been digitised, uploaded
to an encrypted site / Its inhabitants given new user names,
new passwords / Their histories deleted, everyone’s
now making up the truth.

Beneath a touchscreen sky of low-watt urban stars
we each continue our separate journeys from
the very centre of the universe (where all our journeys start from,
especially the most personal).
We share nothing. The name for our loneliness
is self. We live for moments of recognition,
for brief communion.


Accelerating away from the Lockerbie bombing—
Staying a decade and more clear of the Twin Towers—
Keeping that downed Malaysian airliner a few days ahead—
Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the rest parked in a layby
for the time being. A tow-truck might be
on its way—

Same road, same destination.
Still en route to where we’re always making for—
you, me and the memories we rely on like
outdated maps…


Or else, return to that slo-mo summer’s afternoon?
Rebrand it: The Electric City of Heck.
Hashtag: #solidground.

We’ll upgrade its farm and half-dozen cottages (built mostly
from the rubble of nearby Lochmaben Castle).
Give it a 21st century makeover.
Reformat it into:

  • A glass cathedral that promises FaceTime between Man and his God of choice
  • A glacier’s permafrost core to slow the seasons’ meltdown
  • An ocean, cleansed to offer us all a second chance

Then, if all else fails—

Taking the best of what we have and the best of what we are, we’ll reconfigure:

a streamlined rush of swifts that eat, sleep and mate on the wing,
never touching the Earth from here to Africa. Not angels,
but our guides into a free and trackless future—

our guides, our inspiration.