The Barrow Boy

Crows caw in the thick, putrid mist
Hanging between slumping grey twists
Of buildings in London’s ancient heart.

Wheels squeak and grind over cobbles,
Slap in the mud and bluebottles,
He shoves along his battered, wet cart.

Shrieks of pain, love and lust entwine,
Warbling this crusted heart of mine.
Him, laden with others who depart.

Limbs enlocked and piled higher still,
Gaunt women look upon their sill,
At The Barrow Boy’s morbid, red art.

Rattling bones and rolling brown wood,
Scavenging the dead’s pockets, good.
The blood-soaked wood stench is hard to bear.

“Have you Jimmy?” “Have you our Frank?”
“Have you the man that ran the old bank?”
Dead eyes stare here, there, everywhere.

Gold coins, watches, maybe a ring.
Wash off gore and silver will sing!
Rummage through rigid with greatest care.

Fight off the thieves and gravediggers;
“The dead must call them”, he figures,
“And I to them” his words are cold air.

Churchgoers shout curses, and cry:
“Bury the dead!” He retorts: “Why?
I’ll send them up in the sky with smoke!”

They shuffle and chatter and twitch,
Frowning at the deep, burning ditch:
“On these fumes you stoke, your lungs will choke.”

A crow barks a murderous tune.
The hot sun sets heavy in June.
Through the haze walks a man in a cloak.

“Keep them rolling, don’t let them wake.
Lest they hunt you and your soul take.
Be watchful.” Were the last words he spoke.

Tipped onto the fire,
A pulsating pyre,
The dead go for their cosy, hot sleep.

Gathers trinkets, so bright,
Walks coughing into the night,
Hoping his ride in the barrow will keep.




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