Paul Nash's Ruined Country (1917). Photo: Imperial War Museum
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"And where": a new poem from Anthony Thwaite

And will we recognise the place when we get there. . . ?

And where we go from here no one can say:
Whether far away
Or round the corner, hidden,
Perhaps sudden
Coming down like a blind,
And whatever lies behind
As dark as midnight, or as bright as day.

And will we recognise the place when we get there,
A familiar air
Smelling like fields we knew,
And see the true
Path we must follow now,
No matter how
We wondered when we landed here; or where?

Anthony Thwaite, born in 1930, has been a university teacher, a radio producer and a literary editor of the New Statesman. He is one of Philip Larkin’s literary executors and editors. His most recent volume of poetry is Going Out (Enitharmon Press, £9.99).

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war

Photo: Getty
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Moss Side Public Laundry, 1979

A new poem by Pippa Little.

Childless I arrive with a rucksack,
own no Silver Cross steered topple-high
by the bare-legged women in check coats
and bulging shoes who load and unload
ropes of wet sheets, wring them out
to rams’ horns while heat-slap of steam
dries to tinsel in our hair, frizzles our lips
gritty with Daz sherbert dabs and the mangle,
wide as a room-size remnant, never stops groaning
one slip and you’re done for…

In the boom and echo of it, their calls swoop
over Cross-your-Hearts, Man. City socks,
crimplene pinks and snagged underskirts,
Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out! blasts
from across the park, whole streets
get knocked out like teeth,
in a back alley on the way a man
jumped me, shocked as I was
by the fuck off! I didn’t know was in me

but which I try out now to make them laugh, these women
who scrub blood and beer and come
with red-brick soap, quick-starch a party dress
while dryers flop and roar
before their kids fly out of school,
flock outside for a smoke’s sweet rest
from the future bearing down of four walls and one man.

Pippa Little’s collection Overwintering (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Award. Her new book, Twist, was published in March by Arc. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder