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The double vision of Medway City

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

IMAGE Black and white photo of a graveyard with red poppies on some tombstones

Pomegranate seed scatters like confetti

beneath the maypole lime tree,

bleeds underfoot across red tarmac.

The underworld comes calling to

Medway Maritime, even beneath the

lit path of Jack-in-the Green.

Curled in the sinuous arms of the Medway,

the cathedral walls shimmer gold.

In mirage-hot delirium, empty streets

echo pilgrim songs, resonant from the scalloped

shell of St James, while Sheela-na-gig dances

along the western facade. They bury their own

in the chalk.

The souls whisper a path above the

great lines, along the dried banks

of the buried brook. In this lockdown hush,

who can resist this call to the other place ?

The children of the city slip beneath

the chalk’s singing lips in packs, to play

urban explorer among the ribs of

the under-city.

Among the honeycomb caves, where world war

chatter and tangled wires cross like nets,

voices lie submerged among secret tunnels,

now given over as hunting ground

to the mermaids. And the melody

repeats and repeats, the words

of the dead and dying.

Who can hear their stories about

the best of times? Those coming times, the

promise of post-lockdown treats and trips?

All come to dust, in this double vision city.

Phantom paths paced by phantom

pilgrims; tracked by the living looking for

some faint breath of memory.

Embroider our tales into something

more lasting, because I cannot stand it.

The daily toll of the dead; the pomegranate

bleeding slowly into the air. The

lime tree and it’s growing shade,

smothering the spark of everything


Writing by SM JENKIN

Artwork ‘Forever the toll’ by IAM BURN

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