The NS Poem: Barry’s London

A new poem by Mark Granier. 

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It’s the one in which you favour walking or bicycling, so that scraps
of history can wrap your ankles and travel up your nose. 
If you can tell a shopkeeper’s native tongue (and you usually can)
you greet them in it, to give them another reason to smile. 
You go down, uncover the river’s smoking rooms in fragments of
              clay pipes:
old ones, chatting, puffing out of windows among slimed pebbles
              and sand.
What longitude are we in? Greenwich’s broad green lap, spiky windfalls   
of sweet chestnuts gathered by families for the Chinese catering trade.
Always talking and listening, attending as the city — shaking itself out 
of its murderous alarms — bundles into its body warmth, a tatty
             civilised quilt:
faded flags and flagstones, door-stepping villages, markets, commons 
and streets you help cordon off from traffic, for children to get
              wildly lost
in their shouting, poking, progging — a city that makes room 
in the bed, and can be prodded to open its prickly arms.

Mark Granier is an Irish poet and photographer. He is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently "Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems" (Salmon Poetry)

This article appears in the 14 April 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Careless people

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