Writing the Rom

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Commissioned by Architects, Studio Weave, to design a word safari along the traces of the River Rom, here’s a poem what I wrote. The title 9-Day Wonder is a nod to Will Kempe, actor from Shakespeare’s troupe, whose nine day morris dance passed through Romford, back in the day.

9-Day Wonder

There’s a hole full of spawn downflow from Collier Row;

silvered pinhead exhalations, old charcoalers’ spittle.


Here the mud has substance – is linty

with all Romford’s wash.


Old Will jangles, bell-ankled, his heartbeat

red ribbon along the moss glossed wall, into


ratty culverts, where dribbling storm pipes chorus

Oh! Oh! Oh!


And from here on in you’re intravenous.


(Google-faced, you’re hair lick from ringroad’s

west temple; surfacing as fag dangle at five o’clock.)


We lose you to triple garages, sacrificed

on Angel Way. Without you, we ramp up


concrete, swivelling and spiralling

like the cost of living; we check out


the multi storey view – brewery fluted, oast lidded, white



Here’s where Edward told the birds to shut it.


The tacking of trees shows no trace – is too

newly-planted: the scent’s lost. You tunnel through,


gastric-banded, gushing like plumbing under

tanning salons.


And a male cat found in Matalan prowls down Cosmo Road,

and a muzzled dog musses bull pizzle, grub meal, fat ball.


They’re still selling sparrow grass, out of time, out of place,

and there’s a man remembers cows as well as nail bars.


Slip from under the mall; come up for air, full of

blood and rust.


Swill on – swell on

to Dagenham.


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