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Image by Annie Spratt


the madrigal, volume v

Inner City Visitation

by lois hambleton

I taught where careful strategies were used, mostly art and basic skills.
Recovery homes, so teaching plans were set to shifting, moving all resources into air.
One place, held those who hummed- in agitations core.
We knew that drugs kept spiking rage from off the ceiling. A toxic calming.

I said - Let’s focus on our breathing.

In time, the garden, it became a grand obsession.
Jerusalem, whose real name was John he clutched a bible, held it to his chest.
He wanted marigolds, what he remembered of his mom. He’d almost smile
recalling how her hands were stained and puce from boiling beets
and how she’d strip her marigolds of all their juice. For balm and creamy salve.

A feast was planned with produce from the urban dirt and some made crosses
out of broken canes to keep us safe. The rose, the international saviour of us all.
Sweet peas, geraniums, were lodged in dreams.
We spent one afternoon on Latin names and, in those days of planting,
you appeared.

We thought you young but other times when clouds seeped into skulls
then you would seem so old. Sadness was there and yet the air of sweet rebellion
hung in your long and well-worn coat. You settled there, to watch the growth
but never helped. Unshaven, with a smile that stunned like vodka shots
we’d all caress our coffee mugs and watch your breathing. Slow our breathing.

We knew the places where your feet had been
your wrists, kept deeply in your sleeves - your fear of thorns.
Perhaps the lemon balm had brought you here? The seeds that spilled
the lawn that formed, or simply mothers, shaped like marigolds?
The stunned. The numbed. A conjuring of troubled ones?

Hot chocolate, cooling on the stony stair had someone slipped, unwatched
the psychedelic stuff in there?
Jerusalem, he read aloud to us, Isiah, chapter 41 - Who has called up one from the east?
And no one groaned - or rolled their eyes.

Lois Hambleton is from Birmingham UK and her work in inner city adult education has greatly influenced her writing. She has poetry included in two addiction anthologies - A Wild and Precious Life (Unbound) & Despite Knowing (Fore Street Press). She has also been published in Poetry Bus Magazine, Indigo Dreams Publishing, Culture Matters Co-Operative Ltd, Creative Ink, The Madrigal Press, Transcendent Zero Press & Last Stanza Poetry Journal. 

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