Plantation Yard to Council Flat
by Jenny Mitchell
Once there was a slaving house battered by the sun, rays
like golden fists, blood oozing through the floors, women
forced to breed a child, sold by master with a whip.
Now there is a tower block beneath harsh clouds, unemployed
in damp-filled flats. Torn curtains take the place of bars, cracked
open by a breeze wending through the sink estate.
Walls quake with noise from lifts used as urinals, graffitied
stairs a chance you have to take, running for your own front door,
pounded by the sound of feet. Voices from the past echo
down communal stairs. Loud music thumps through ceilings,
infiltrates the skin like war is on the march in hobnailed boots,
taking a deep breath. Slaves once trudged through fields
where tenants cross the rec – a roundabout that does not turn –
stopping at the food bank, hands held out, mumbling thanks,
made to crock a knee as if a bag of food resembles God.
Once there was a hanging tree to stretch the runaways, bodies
left to twist all night, pulling down the stars. Rent long
overdue can’t be called the same, but think of bailiffs at your door.
Across the street, a large white house is owned by whites, blind
drawn up to point at blacks, skin all that can be seen as they
walk to the flats, heads high, still enslaved by need.
Jenny Mitchell is a winner of the Bread and Roses Poetry Award, the Poetry Book Awards 2021 and a joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2019. She also won the inaugural Ironbridge Prize, the Bedford Prize and the Gloucester Poetry Society Open Competition. The best-selling debut collection, Her Lost Language, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales), and a second collection, Map of a Plantation, is an Irish Independent ‘Literary Find’ and on the syllabus at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her latest collection is called Resurrection of a Black Man.