The Flags are Quiet 

for Martin Joyce 

The flags are quiet and doorways 
fill with the riverbreeze that chills 
the cellars of the distillery. 
Someone waits and someone fails
to arrive under the clock, 
by the window bright with reams 
of cloth, pale white and polka dot. 

Windowglass is clammy with vapour 
from scalding pots and pans.
It is neither night nor day 
in the twilight gloom.
Steel shutters come down 
on shops in the market place.
Cars go by in a gauze of fumes. 

The slagheap in the coal yard 
fans out its profile. 
Numbers on the doors lie still. 
It is evening. Twilight. 
Swans are asleep under stone bridges – 
sorrowful creatures 
giving off the fragrance of drizzle. 

(a rewritten version from 2002)

From The Flags are Quiet, New Writers’ Press, 1969

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