Roots by Fran Lock

Weary and well scrubbed, we stand flat-footed in our bare failings.

This isn’t snow, it is pasteurised static, and we will go blind. Here

we are, picking the proverbs from between our teeth. Our diplomacy

creaks like new shoes; we make our mewling mispredictions without

much confidence.


It was a year of impeccable bombs; in a kind of frigid analysis

everything became very neat and very clear. The New Build

Houses, clinically deprived. We had known nothing of this,

a corrective strictness you grasp at like a nettle.


Look, even the ferns are curled purposefully inwards. Even the flowers,

indigo fantasists in National Dress, all veiled threats and flounces. The birds

are glossy lepers with a fierce sense of occasion. Tadzeus makes sneering repair

to the ugly stone wall. He is rude and resourceful. The low, pale sun swallows

his contempt like a spittoon. We are not good with our hands. We cannot live

with such flat, flattened immensity.


We do not know what to say. Coarse and prodigal, unskilled

at omens, we defend ourselves with the good-willed gullible

patience of virgins. We are afraid and cannot help but stare,

stare at the humped hyena backs of the prayerful, at the muted

televisions serialising brittle doom.


It was a year of impeccable bombs, those ponderous crocodile tears.

People were unsteady surfaces, sliding over each other with the sad,

hospitable roughness of cats’ tongues. When we came, our faces

like strained bright circles of torchlight, nobody had anything to tell

us, only the town: incapable quivering triumph of bones; the grovelling

contraceptive whiteness of the rubble, the earth heaped and churned

in bombastic classicism.


It dawned on us with horror, we were tourists. Handwringing pilgrims

leaking little curds of sorrow. Bodies tumbled in shabby circus incest,

pirouetting down in tribal pits. A made-to-measure concrete cruelty

that was not ours to carry, western kids, whose trained tongue cultivates

sorrow in decimal fractions of belonging.



Fran Lock’s debut collection, Flatrock (Little Episodes), was launched in May 2011. Her work has appeared in various places, including Ambit, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry London, The Stinging Fly, and in Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt). Her second collection, The Mystic & The Pig Thief, is due out in May this year from Salt.