Pigeons work the damp setts
of this high-windowed street,
patient, deliberate. Closes fall away
from its fishbone spine, swallow
daylight down their narrow throats.
Women trot on pattens, gather
their skirts, loup over puddles.
Fleeing the wire-sting of rain
they stand under eaves to barter
their bright beads of news.
A boy kicks a stone along the stank.
In a grassy court the sun strikes
a harled wall: ochre, red of ox-gall,
ox-blood, the warm reek of a flesher’s
slab under the pend’s broad arch.
The moon climbs a stair, perches
on a turret; shadows walk on stilts.
Men in wigs call for sedan chairs, black
gowns worm-worn to the silk-and-paper
thinness of a moth’s wing.
Chimney smoke’s ripped by the wind;
in a doorway a man sleeps on straw,
hears in his ale-dream the far-off pitch
of fife and drum, bell-chimes and
the salt-sharp cries of gulls and crows.