An incident on the Heads of the Valleys road

What song was playing when the windscreen crazed?
In that interminable instant
when the block’s edge struck the glass
did you breathe before the sirens mauled their descant?

Who were you anyway? Just a taxi driver
making ends meet, taking scabs to work.
That was enough. We’d lived on soup and favours
far too long. Our patience had to break.

We were drowning, breath by breath.
The mood was foul, but not ferocious as it looked,
those boys not half as mad as folk believed.
They only meant to warn you, just to shake

you up a bit. And after that our lights
snuffed too. The way the shoppers glared
– or didn’t – when we ventured on the streets.
‘Dig deep!’ we called, into our beards,

our seams well nigh exhausted. We talked
of pride, but listlessly, like long forgotten
lovers. We spoke of fighting, but baulked
even at the prospect of retreat. We battened

down. Our women cursed our lack of spirit.
Our hope fell slack, lung-shrunk as emphysema.

All history now. The hills are so much greener.
So much more empty air to uninhabit.

This poem has also appeared in The Stare’s Nest.