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It’s the Wren’s Nest – part housing estate, part nature reserve – it’s the Wrenner to us.
Frogspawn slicks in silica sheets across Green Pool; carrion crow calls; the foxes den – too close to the road – vixens crushed against tarmac; limestone cliffs weathered by prehistoric waves; the underground caves – the fenced off caverns – the canal lines that vein through; rabbits, badgers, weasels; and rusted cans and cigarette buts and flytipped sacks and discarded clothes and the stained knickers of a fallen wench; limes, acorn, hawthorn, bluebell and stinky wild garlic; bell pits, old mine shafts and geological tools; dog walkers amble through slippery tributaries of homemade paths; rope-swinging kids up a height in the oaks; the silence; the almost silence; the rhizomes that pierce through earth’s hymen and tangle, conjugate, apomixis, epitoky.

None of this is metonym. This land is where we live. The Wrenner. Here is where they dug into the earth and pulled out a giant trilobite – the Dudley Bug, they call it – not a metonym.

The streets orbit the woods, not as a symbol: literally. Terraces, clad in cobblestone and redbrick, meander, side stream, feed, branch, in swirls around the pull of the woods. The estate eddies the woods.

Grandson lives with his brood three streets down from Nan who took the cousin’s house who now live up by our auntie, she’s been there for three generations and the kids’ll have it after too, and John and Wendy are two doors up from her sister and their babs are just through the alley next to our kid who used to live with her best friend at school and she’s only a stone’s throw from her grandson. Every bloodline webs our Wrenner like this.

You say you don’t walk through here at night. You say to be careful. Avoid us. But we are here. Like the frogspawn sticking to the film of algae we are cells, sucking at light, stunned in our own kind of beauty.

[…]

 The Wren’s Nest – part housing estate, part nature reserve – the Wrenner, we call it.

Here’s where the Dudley Bug was torn from the earth. Where rodents, birds and sneaky mammals lerk. Where caverns and bell pits sit strong in limestone frames. Where trees nestle with grasses and nettles. Where green pool sits and sends out its rare stench. It seems still. It is still here. A litter of foxes learn to avoid the traffic. Hawthorns learn new ways to grow thorns. Prehistoric waves mark out our veins. This is not a metonym. It is where we live. The boarded up and barren houses are not symbols. They still orbit the woods. There are only a few of us left. A brooke remains from the pluera streets. But a brooke still has its stream. We await rains. We look still. We are here still. We are the frog spawn that slicks in silica sheets. Somehow breeding.

You say you don’t walk through here at night. You say to be careful. Avoid us. But we are here. Fewer in number. Almost motionless. Almost quiet. We’re Wrenner, ay we.

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R. M. Francis is a writer from the Black Country, currently researching his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton. He’s the author of three poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room, 2015) Orpheus (Lapwing Publications 2016) and Corvus’ Burnt-Wing Love Balm and Cure-All (The Black Light Engine Room, 2018).

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