Four years ago they gathered,
the local press, the people,
to pause in civic duty
at the statue of Joseph Priestley.
A week before the vote
they came again, the people,
and the national press,
laid flowers at its base, and mourned.
By the morning after the vote
they’d already edited
short-term memory, claiming
not a shot was fired in this campaign,
giving the lie to Jo Cox’s belief
that we’re far more united
and have more in common
than things that divide us.
The Remain Moon waned over Birstall,
where my German-surnamed grandfather,
the one whose brother died in France
on midsummer day 1918,
first set up shop on the market square.
And it waned over Birmingham,
where Priestley’s dissenter comrades
in the Lunar Society – scientists,
industrialists, philosophers by day,
would meet at the full moon
the safer to return to homes
from which they’d be smoked out anyway
by a popular riot condoned by an establishment
intolerant of their support
of the French revolution,
their right to celebrate
the second anniversary
of the fall of the Bastille.
Helen Boden is a Yorkshire-born, Edinburgh-based European with poems in New Writing Scotland, Mslexia, Butcher’s Dog, The Eildon Tree, and Dactyl. She also collaborates with visual artists. In the 1980s she worked on Joseph Priestley when researching for a PhD in Romantic poetry. Today she finds it hard to accept that Jo Cox’s constituency voted for Brexit.