The fate of words is
to emulate the river.
I had seen her there before,
the Asian woman by the weir,
rapt in a greyhooded shawl,
watching the water go over.
Police posters faded
on lamp-posts and trees.
A body washed up
nine miles away and I flinched,
shamed by the figure
of a drowning thought.
She had hired an afternoon taxi
to take her from roads and rooms.
She had a secret to keep
and disappeared like footprints
across a snow-black wood.
Would talking have helped?
They tried to fathom her,
all those unspoken conversations.
The river she embraced
swept her away and then forgot.
Each day is an unopened letter
behind the Town Hall clock.
by Jim Greenhalf
‘Unspoken Conversations’ is copyright © Jim Greenhalf, 2018. It is reprinted from Breakfast at Wetherspoons (Smokestack Books, 2018) by permission of Smokestack Books.
Notes from Smokestack Books:
Breakfast at Wetherspoons is a meditation on the idea that ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chainstores.’ It’s a book about freedom and necessity, mortality and time, Tolstoy, Diogenes and Jihadi John. It’s a book about poetry and comradeship, and old friends like Sebastian Barker, Barry MacSweeney and David Tipton. It’s a late-flowering 40-year old love story. And it’s a kind of bleak Bradford noir, in which Greenhalf explores life among the Struldbrugs queuing in the Co-op, stays too long in the Hard Day’s Night Hotel and catches the last train to Skipton. And at the end of Dead Pan Alley there is always a view of Salts Mill and the green hill rising steeply to Baildon, where John Wesley preached love’s holy connexion on the eve of the French Revolution. Read more about the book on the Smokestack website.
Jim Greenhalf was born in 1949 and grew up in East London. A news and feature writer for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus for almost forty years, he has written eighteen books of poetry, including The Dog’s Not Laughing, The Unlikelihood of Intimacy in the Next Six Hours, Hinterland, Blue on Blue, Grassington’s Reflex and The Man in the Mirror. He lives in Saltaire, West Yorkshire.
Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.
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