New Beating into Pantisocratic Ploughshares of the Same Old Rattled Sabres: N.S. Thompson



The city is a collage. You look back,

The station’s shiny sinuous S-curve glints

An avant-garde triumphant in the sun

Avant-la-lettre architecturally,

Abstract, except the banks of glittering scales

Of windows seeming to wriggle towards

You; then a blackened mill, a viaduct, 

Converted warehouse, public house, a bank

From what was once the Florence of the North,

Its civic buildings in a classic style

Once shaded charcoal grey by chimney smoke,

The columns, porticos and tympani

On banks and credit institutions, most

Names now defunct, absorbed by new players on

The block, the public library circular 

In shape, its steps leading to Peter’s Fields

Where tipsy yeomanry once charged at crowds

Protesting peacefully about the need

For parliamentary reform – the vote –

This after years of lack of work and bread

Brought all surrounding mill towns to a stop,

With shadows on the cobbled streets and slate

Roofs capping figures looking gaunt and stark

Who came out in their Sunday best only

To see it decorated with the blood

Of those cut down by indiscriminate

Sabres, the dead eighteen and hundreds more

Maimed, injured, women and children in the toll.

I look down from the library steps and see

And feel the carnage visited upon

The working poor or poor because of need

Of work in Bury, Bolton, Oldham who

Had walked there in their Sunday best to hear

The radical speaker Henry Hunt perform.


If Manchester is difficult to see 

Without its history, it paved the way

For what we have to today in highlighting

The need for work and dignity, for care

And overall political reform. 


The city is a collage, cut up, put

Together in the mind from patches, past

And present, images and photographs

And print of memories not to forget. 



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