Size / / /

For my child
in the new land.
The only spell
I ever learnt.
Of needles and sleep.
There'll be the warehouse.
Sewing machine beating
out years and days.
There'll be the markets.
Curled lock-ups at dawn,
hungry side streets,
armfuls of snides.
Stutter of tarpaulin and steel
against the morning dark.
There'll be the man at the gate.
Stand back, he'll say.
There's nothing to see.
His fists and radio-crackled voices
of a country where tv light
smooths to white-sheeted sleep.
There'll be running
over slanted pavement
as the bricks the metal
the glass
will not yield.
Say it.
"Some entered rivers,
became the stones and the weeds.
Some crawled into basements,
were the dark and mice behind doors.
Some sought out the soft ground
to spend their bodies
to the flowers and roots."
My child
in the new land.
This is the only spell
I ever learnt.
That you won't know their open-jawed vans.
Or watch car lights blur into rain
as they bear you through night.
Won't be curved metal wise
through the staunch tight sky,
or spoken into a windowless room
to learn just what you're worth.
That you'll sleep
as the earth spins as
the cities swell
and the walls breed
as the glass smashes
and the fires spread,
sleep safe as this lonely spell
holds you in a secret place
until a lazy gardener
cuts you awake
and no one remembers this.

Ruth Jenkins writes speculative poetry and interactive fiction on cities, coding and magic. Ruth's writing has previously appeared in Goblin Fruit, Scheherezade's Bequest, and Verse Kraken. Her website is
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6 Feb 2023

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