The City Speaks – Shane Rhodes


The City Speaks – by Shane Rhodes

Words come from a room within a room.
This history of this place has layers.
The centre is the edge, so peel away.
Peel and peel and peel.
Peel ‘til something resonates, ‘til something gives.
Peel back the writer and you have a filleter.
Peel back the filleter and you have a trawlerman.
Peel back the trawlerman and you have a trawlerman’s dad.
Peel back the trawlerman’s dad and you have a stowaway.
Before the three coronets were stamped
We punched our gold with H for Hull.
Before the gaslights we ran on oil.
Oil for making paint and soap, hemp for old ship’s rope.
From hollowed boat to sail to steam.
Latchlifter to another dream.
Round here we can make bones speak.
Peel another sheet and look inside.
The wool, the salt, the grain and hides,
The bow, the stern, the wine and stone.
A sailing needle, a scrimshaw tooth.
Tattooed maps guide a sailor home.
There’s a mulberry tree in William’s garden.
His words still ringing round the house.
“So much misery, condensed in so little room”.
Peel another skin. We are all guilty.
What does the strange fruit taste of?
It tastes like fireworks in the mouth.
Through the smallest window Amy’s plane coughs vapour trails
Like a Spirograph across the blue expanse.
There’s hope beyond the stars.
And if you could go there in your metal moth
I’m sure you would.
More than once I tried to leave you,
But your familiar voice brings me back.
I travel across or under the harp and know I’m home again.
Wrapped in these layers, out on an alluring limb.
Put your shell-like to the floor.
Listen to the building breathe.
The city speaks.
It speaks of rust and silver that became a street,
That became a land of green ginger,
A King’s town then a city.
Down the alley to the Plotting Room.
The final thin veneer falls away and reveals the moon.
In its light, a tree silhouetted,
Too big to uproot and plant again.
Tough and weathered where days rotate and remain.
At the core there’s a crack
Where the horizon meets the sky,
Where a tug floats like a lolly stick
On the cold hot chocolate of the Humber
While in the distance, Trinity’s bells
Peal and peal and peal.

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