Maggie Butt

The Patron Saint of Ugly Towns

You’ve been to towns like this: shabby
as an old tramp, unwashed and moth-eaten,
shambling along from day to day; ringed
by black mountains, glowering against
the sun; paint peeling from the buildings
exposing plaster like old sores; a market
thronged with tired people in cheap shoes,
stalls heaped with out-size knickers, floral
aprons, itchy socks; a town where work
is history, mines closed, a slag heap
like their self-respect, where even stubby
trees refuse to grow, grass fails to root.
Out in fields the sunflowers bow their heavy
heads like congregations at a funeral,
listening to their doom, counting the hours.
My candles gutter in a grimy church
where mildew blooms on leaky walls,
and you might think my task as hopeless
as world peace. But watch me fly and brush
a feathered wing tip here or there:
a crow drops next year’s sunflower seeds,
the gangly boy pulls down his cuffs and
slicks his hair for his first heart-race date,
a tabby cat twines round the widow’s legs,
the pregnant woman feels first fluttering kicks.
Watch me fly, and see love shudder into life.