I wrote this poem after a road journey from North Derbyshire back to my home in Edinburgh. I was struck by many of the place names and wondered who had invented them. It was a wet, grey day and the fairgrounds, which popped up regularly around the moors and farmland, seemed at odds with their surroundings. I’d also been reading Milton’s Paradise Lost, which must explain something.
Fallen Villages of the North
Given the unreliable climate on the moors,
Longhorsley’s priest supplies intercession
for pineapple experiments at Pauperhaugh
and genetically modified okra in Cockle Park.
Although he is diminutive in height
his giant thumbs drum up post-lapsarian boredom
long before the drone of cauliflower florets
ripens to a ceremonial trumpeting
at fairground season: time for merry-go-rounds
to recycle appearances, for technology to calculate
the caterpillar train’s freight capacity
during its climactic, right-angled nosedive.
The rain runs amok with a chemical stink.
Cabbage allotments between rival chair-o-planes
raise leaves to heaven, green umbrellas
punctured in the heart of hail-bitten earth.
The old-timers still believe in growth
by steady grace, though most are stunted,
which keeps in mind their need for God, in love,
to sling thunderclouds above evil
Shilbottle’s battered crèpe stall awnings,
to give hurricanes the run of its skyscraping
big wheel. Bananas, force-fed ethylene, sweat
carbon dioxide, the priest’s basso profundo shakes
coconuts from the shy, And did those feet…
through sunburn, sandblast and snowstorm,
while all-weather saviours drop like shells
in triumph to the leaky inflatable slide.
Rob A. Mackenzie was born in Glasgow and lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. His chapbook collection, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press. It has sold out, but he recommends all the others there. He blogs at Surroundings. His debut full-length collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, has just been published by Salt. You can find a review of his new book at Tony Williams's blog.