Below Howarth Cross, tussocky fields
still wait for dead builders; 'Pick your plot now.'
Mice dart away through clover and thistles
dodging oil drums, chip wrappers, surprised
by the impossible song of lost looms.
Under Cobbled Bridge, off Belfield Lane
the stones erode along their grain, as lain.
On the underside, immortalised, 'Kipper Lips'
and 'Tina too much too young.'
Past cyclists, fisherman and fern-clad locks
two men on a scaffold are bricking-up
the last of nine great eyeless mills.
The sun-stone rolls over Blackstone Edge,
heavy, heavy. On Smalley Street, each drainage
grate is still in place. Doris hasn't moved
the old meat slicer, yet doesn't even know
me, as she squints over change, saying,
'You're better off than you realised, love.'
From the church, scrawled on the garage
my brothers' names, then the gentle rise
of Heywood Road dipping and winding
narrowly between dark hawthorn trees,
cobbled patches still breaking through,
hints at something we called 'country'
heading out one Sunday morning
blindfold toward the Heywood spire
with no thought of returning.