Cities Rebuilt after the War
outside your house is a plaza now
a coffee shop
a glove boutique
and a second hand stall
selling slim volumes of poems
             written for people who lived before

at the end of your street
where tanks rested
before they started into it again
there is a small plaque
to factory workers
             who doused their machines in kerosene

and knowing it would end
one way or the other
refused to assemble
even one more bicycle
or whatever it was that people wanted
             in industrious cities they lived in then

their children born
between rockets and death
know nothing again will be absolute
in cities where things continue on
as if they were not
             cities renamed and redrawn

there are photographs of missing cats and dogs
pasted on the walls
hand-bills posted to telegraph poles
drama classes belly dancers
and television sets for sale
             in cities uncovered beneath the floor

on the building sites old builders whistle
at women walking past
in high heels and low rise pants
pushing new salvaged prams
they despair the absence of men
             in cities subsumed into something else

there are lighter shades on the door
where bloody handprints have faded
like the influence of magicians
carnivals and clerics
the reasons they believed disintegrated
             in cities repainted up against the wall

and somewhere each day
a mother says
I will make for you a summer
her children know it’s for her not them
there is only so much she can spin from dust
             in cities frozen stiff

and into all its empty spaces
who knows what lights will shine
and into the deft reconstructions
if anyone is coming back again
to trim the hedges or put up shelves
             in cities dreamt of as they were back then

so we argue about our favourite songs
TV shows and cigarette brands
discuss several women
whose bodies we prefer
to see exposed on magazine covers
             metaphorically fucking us

we touch on the question of our debt
to former colonial labour
having left their homes
for our nation state
they know how empty it is
             in a ribcage of streets decades dead

on park benches old women weep
with the anonymous children
of headless men
the last Franciscan friar in town
walks a swan across the bridge
             of a city that’s lost its image

in rooms blown out
and blackened with fire
in hallways without doors
we take on different names
grow new heads arms and legs
             and raise ourselves from what went before

facing capture by new regimes
we search for flames
remaining between us
in the shallow foundations
and magnolia walls
             of cities rebuilt after the war