Outside the bus window is the town I grew up in.
Or rather, orbited when I was young,
When we thought we were punks.
My mother lives here now.
At a party I remember my friends threw grapefruits at the walls,
Narrowly missing a portrait of Virginia Woolf –
That was Ebberly Lawn,
With its Medieval reconstructionists role-playing
On the grass with wooden swords.
We don’t live there anymore.
All around this market town –
That is bigger than smaller cities –
Are vast fields filled
With brambles and molehills.
Starlings and robins.
On its other side, a river:
Long and brown like my hair used to be, filled with mud
Like my veins used to be.
Sometimes there are cormorants,
Black and glittering.
They spread their wet wings as they feed.
Triumphant as death.
I think of the sun on a hot afternoon,
Of watching men fishing from riverside tents.
They do so also in winter.
Some fish for survival; wish them a plentiful catch.
I remember when I first saw the clouds again,
I’d been busy in the city when they disappeared.
I had heard my mother, in the intervening years, remark on their beauty as we drove through the fields.
I’d nodded or grunted,
Finding myself too far down to see.
Now the clouds are full,
Pregnant with water babies sailing down on this market town,
That’s black and almost lacquered with wetness, like the nails in the parlours up the road.
Shining like a saveloy.
The river flowing fully:
If you listen beyond the engines
It has a sound.
I am repentant now.
Walk on the grass. It, unlike the careful gardeners, welcomes you back.
How many years has it been?
It’s twinned with moss.
Thick and blanketing like the clouds.
The town is heron grey,
Crammed with chippies and alley cats,
The worst clubs in Christendom,
And more supermarkets
Than whole counties, countries, continents, put together –
This also goes for hairdressers.
Sweet skittle alleys and drizzle.
From streetlights there is an orange atmosphere,
Like a giant Satsuma,
That protects this place from everywhere else on earth.
Juicy gossip, lads, just put your ear to the ground. You hear?
It’s about you –
All lies, of course.
A mad and isolated place,
A town taken for granted,
By me, if no one else.
Have you seen the Civic Centre at sunset?
Le Corbusier has a lot to answer for,
But in that light it is the most beautiful thing
In spite of its profound ugliness.
The sirens from police cars lure you to the rocks.
So too the pubs.
It’s safe to fall, safe like nowhere else.
It is a town
I am attached to.
The town outside my window on the bus
That I can’t wait to come back to.
To seagulls and legless pigeons,
To legless men and women,
To fudge that’s too sweet and expensive
To buy more than once a decade.
To the pannier market, its sheepskin slippers and 10 pack Rizlas.
To my mother,
To my friends,
To clotted cream and Barnstaple F.C.,
To the ancient mound
Where the heavens glow in puddles.
It is raining again.
Poem and photos by Jade Angeles Fitton
Twitter: @jadeafitton Instagram: @jadeangelesfitton