a poem by Roy Fisher
Where’s Birmingham river? Sunk.
Which river was it? Two. More or less.
moved in from the Trent, the first English
who called the waters that kept them alive
southward then westward, then all ways
weak headwaters of the Tame. By all of the Tame
Tomsaetan. And back down at Tamworth, where the river
the Mercian kings kept their state. Dark
wide enough to catch the sky, the Dark River
vanished underneath it, seeping out from the low hills
Wolverhamption, by Bloxwich, dropping morosely
no more than a few feet every mile, fattened
Tipton, Bilston, Willenhall, Darlaston,
She oozes a border round Handsworth
meadows that turned into Perry Barr,
but never getting there. A couple of miles out
scent of Nechells and Saltley — coal gas,
for Tamworth, caught on the right shoulder
a slow, petty river with no memory of an ancient
and misspelt at that. Before they merge
that force them clear of the gasworks. And the Tame
that hangs under the long legs of the M6.
turgidly watered the fields, gave
the Soho Works into motion, collected waste
collected sewage, factory poisons. Gave way
collected metals, chemicals, aquicides. Ceased
drains, with no part in anybody’s plan.
Poem from the Children's Poetry Archive. Copyright Roy Fisher 2005.
You can listen to Roy Fisher reading this poem here.