I wander Dudley streets – old canals and factories. All faces are sad now. I take a road I’ve never been down before.
It’s rained. The road is slippery. Time is too late. The slippery road takes time to go down. Alone. Black tarmac and morning shadows. No one has used these sites, where rusted chains mark metal doors, left empty when the change came. Withered parts of machines and machinists beacon the pavements. In the room at the end of the road a curled finger seduced me inside.
On these streets – the ghost stench lingers.
Trudging through decayed buildings. Walking around the desolate, public houses and ruined walls. Cranes pierce the skyline. They yawn upwards, towards grey clouds. Then plunge deep into the earth, screwing into the soils. Cogs turn cogs, grating chains that spiral coils and spasm the ground. Beasts of metal satisfy themselves as they pull down the mills, building temples for shiny shoed suits to live. Garden City they call it. Our Dads used to work there.
Passing rustling waste and rotting sanitary towels. Fences guard with wrought iron vigilance. Axles and beer cans rust. The gangs had bought up patches of land and they were sitting on it.
Windows witness screams of smog and sunlight. Towering red brick chimneys and dark church spires catch dust. Copies of streets where children drink cans of full proof liquor, families rage war and slate grey tiles cuddle together. Things changed. Only the bookies does any business on the Wrenner these days.
Between fried food bonanzas, clock in – clock out and sleep they shout out, starve, stone the family pet. They laugh a little. Eyes rolling backwards. A shrug. Cries are heard among the cogs and chains, the flames and shouts, the revs, the screeches.
Dog shit and chewing gum scar the streets. Window boxes wilt where paint cracks, revealing bones, old tissues and soggy cardboard.
A dog lies panting on the pavement. I lie down to meet its weeping eye and a paw rests on my shoulder. I stroke its balding mane. We stare at each other. The clock of the church bell tolls out. All goes silent. The dog has nothing to satisfy itself and it dies with a slow exhale.
R. M. Francis is a writer from the Black Country, in the UK, currently researching his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton. He’s the author of two poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room, 2015) and Orpheus (Lapwing Publications 2016).