Comparisons

by Philip Williams

You shocked me, at first.
Stone soot-black, still to be
sand-blasted back,
with your red-brick back-to-backs,
outside lavs, washing strung out
across the streets of Leeds.
 
Our own terraces looped
along each valley,
linking towns and names –
Wattstown, Tylerstown,
Tonyrefail.
 
But not on this scale.
More people within forty miles
than half the whole of Wales.
 
They rub raw your roads.
Tyre and sole scour them
back to their cobbled ribs.
Wind also, and rain.
 
Some streets were never metalled,
others lost their setts, prised loose
and crow-barred out for garden features
down south or even overseas.
 
Then there were those stray valleys
that seemed to have slithered here out
of Wales, to slump exhausted,
heads down in a sunken scrum
into Halifax or Huddersfield
so much further from the sea.
 
Your amber ale foams
through cask sparklers
and refuses to travel.
Your blended tea sheds its flavour,
somewhere in the Midlands
when we try to take it home.
 
Smoke drifts slowly across both horizons,
from Drax or Margam, Llanwern.
Or in distant smuts across mellow stone,
your prized flags beneath a barbecue
that spits and cracks above a southern patio.