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The NS Poem: from uncivil

A new poem by Andrew McMillan. 

By Andrew McMillan

each morning the walk beyond the workmen
as they line up to change   crouch down as though
they are swimmers and the kerb is the edge
of the ocean      slipping off pumps   lacing up boots

sometimes it’s jogging bottoms   shimmied down
replaced by practical canvas things   not clothing
but protection      and always   already
the high-vis      illuminated by their own headlights
and beyond them   and beyond the train depot
they service every day      where single carriages
lay like dormant cattle behind fences
the stucco of the terraces is cracked

so the sides of the houses have branches
and the Railway Hotel is no longer
near a railway   and has no beds to speak of
though through the empty ringpull of net-curtain
there is a tinfoil glint of Christmas

and as the day breaks itself apart      on the floor
the hatched egg of an upturned hardhat

Andrew McMillan is a poet based in Manchester. His debut “Physical” was the first poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award. This poem is an extract from “uncivil”, which will appear in McMillan’s third collection, Pandemonium (Jonathan Cape), on 20 May.

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This article appears in the 05 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, If not now, when?