For M.M-H. Still, always

there’s a line of wet black birds on the edge

of the roof like a string of blown bulbs. one

old crow with a wing out crooked as a pirate

flag. silence. caches under concrete slabs.

fly-tipped sofas sag. gulls pull bags from bins.

off-white-outgrown christening gowns. women

with striated faces puff and shove at buggies

full of shopping. dogs on their paranoid errands,

feinting at fences. game-show snarl on rotties,

staffies, pits. and there’s these kids, who shit

where they live: ringtone cynics in ski-masks

carrying pool cues. baseball bats. and lately—

knives. scrape a screaming grace from treads

of trainers, tyres; black grout between the tiles.

little town of conquest and vomit. ‘ead the balls

counting your weregild, smirking. here, your smile

betrays you. young men hunt in packs. doped,

provoked, with nothing in between. unprincipled

insomnia. the nights they tigered. tyranny.

defective weather-system, orange, blue.

on days like these i think of you: toking,

broken. the chipboard walls you’re yoked to.

and cars on bricks all stripped for parts

like medieval catafalques. landfills, fields

and edgelands. acne, aggrogasm, scar,

the hieroglyphs of harm. i think of you.

st stephen’s day, we pray for strength

in times of persecution. but did you cast

forth sparks? make perfect love a lightbulb

moment. no. we pray to forgive. i walk

the river where you lived. stretched

like black magnetic tape. my body

could break this depthless plane, intent

as a spade. pray to forgive. the sides

of your head, spoiling for stones. nickel

blade that nicked the bone. these stupid

streets like hardened arteries. the rocks

they threw. the hate they give.