They're grubbing up the old modern
rusty concrete lampposts,
with a special orange grab
on a fixture removal unit.
The planters come up behind
with new old lampposts in lamppost green,
and bury each root in a freshly-dug hole.
The bus can't get past, brooding in vibrations.
We're stuck at the half-refurbished
late-Georgian crescent of handbag wholesalers.
The window won't open. The man behind me
whistles "What a Wonderful World",
and I think to myself:
Any day soon
the rubble will be sifted; the streets all swept,
and we'll be aboard a millennium tram ride,
the smooth one we've been promised, with a while yet to go
until the rising sea and the exterminating meteor,
but close before the war
starting with the robocar disaster.
And when the millennium crumbles,
I'll be squinting through the corrugated fence
at the wreck of the mayor's armoured vehicle, upside down
where they dumped the files of the Inner City Partnership;
and as I kick an old kerbstone
I'll find you, Shoreditch orchid, true and shy,
rooting in the meadow streets
through old cable, broken porcelain, rivets and springs;
living off the bones of the railway.
You'll make your entry unannounced,
in the distraction of buddleia throwing its slender legs
out in the air from nothing,
from off the highest parapets, cheap
attention-seeking shrub from somewhere
like nowhere. But here
you'll identify your own private genes,
a quiet specimen-bloom seeded in junk,
and no use to any of us; only an intricate bee-trap
composed in simple waxy petals, waiting
for the bees to reinvent their appetite.
We'll be waiting for the maps to kindle
as we get settled, where we find ourselves
undiscovering the city,
its lost works, disestablished
under the bridges. There's no more bargaining
for melons and good brass buttons.
We share your niche
and crouch as the falling sun
shines through smoke, and the lampposts
fail to light the night to the place all buses go.
© Peter Daniels
First prize in the Arvon International Poetry Competition 2008, with the Ted Hughes Environmental Poetry Prize.