Flood tourists, Sheffield, March 1864 

the flotsam was still scumming from the dam-burst
when we piled onto the special train
for a day out at the scene of the disaster

found a spot where we could finger stone and timber
wrap our palms around half-bricks left on half-houses
show our most flattering sides to the photographer

and prod our feet into soft earth
where someone’s baby was hurled from its cot
and mills from their foundations

forty-three of them, the papers said
though we lost count of the wheels
and grinding stones, and filthy things

that might have been a mother’s Sunday bonnet
or even (you said almost with a giggle)
when you touched them

felt like bits of people

 

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