It was the inattentive eye that saw them best:
breeze-block vases with their tapered waists,
their smoky pouts. They were modest,

middle-distant; they had the permanence
of grey things: seen but rarely noticed;
or, if noticed, only once.

When the dynamite sapped them, a ripple
climbed their flanks; their mouths
were trying to say something difficult.

They hesitated, as if falling was a choice,
and when they fell they sleeved
their outlines, peeled themselves

off the air that wouldn’t quite let them go,
that even seemed to try to hold them up.
They did their best to go unnoticed, even now,

though crowds had gathered: the local news,
a man who worked there and thought them beautiful,
who cried in the same reticent way they fell,

and the developers whose view they’d blocked.
Then they crashed silently into smoke and dust
followed by their noise which arrived too late.


I miss them – their uninsistent presence:
sometimes it felt like they were moving
and we were not; from Didcot station’s

interzone, they looked serene,
brewing clouds in concrete stills;
in our connecting-train hypnosis,

they were the ones who seemed to leave,
weighed anchors and steamboat chimneys,
and we who stayed behind; their smoky sillage

seen through a rainy window
was part of the commuting consciousness,
those small realistic dreams

that visit when we doze in public places;
the porous ones that use ingredients
from the world around and fold them in

to our brief, matt fantasies of escape:
nothing extreme or too destabilising;
more like liquid on a not-quite-flat surface,

always edging slightly across its borders
but never over-spilling. They promised
that the ordinary would always quietly

exceed its confines but never break them down.
That it was inexhaustible; ever-grey plains
of everyday things, so many and so much

that you didn’t need to look, not now at any rate,
because it would always be there.
You could pay attention next time,

and there would always be a next time.
So for now you let them slide
into the margins of your need to be somewhere,

the burned-off vapour of your hurry
in the return journey of water becoming air
becoming water.

                                            Now they’re gone
there’s only the pragmatic little station
to which they seemed to say:

you have the timetables but we have the time.

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