The defiance of trees

Always buddleia. As if you could demolish

half a city and leave butterflies, a wasteland

painted purple. A child’s plastic seat, bright

pink among the scrub. And a harvest:


rose hips, blackberries, first fruits of destruction.

They banked the earth up at the roadside, bits

of gardens mashed together. Look, brassica

survived. Here’s borage. A woman grew that once.


Three houses huddle, the outer two tinned up,

steel shutters draped with England flags. Here

is the man who would not move. Everything

around is flattened. Defiance looks like this.


Defiance looks like this, too: a park

emerging from a sodden triangle of grass.

Kids playing where folk warned them to keep clear

of the pub they called the Blood Tub.


Two rows of silver birches. Yarnbombed,

bunting stretched between them, wildflowers under.

Drummers, singers, laughter. This town

nearly died. Today they’re planting trees.



This poem was awarded joint third place in Sheffield Hallam University’s annual poetry competition. It has also been published as part of the Long View project.