The last days of the Lancashire boggarts

by David Swann

They were maybe on their last legs
even when Manchester first stuck its fingers
into the wound and began pulling out peasants.

Poor old monsters, who had clung
to their hosts’ dark places! What a wrench
to see those hungry farmers ride away!

No wonder a few of them smuggled aboard
the carts – rode the moors to Salford and Ancoats.
I imagine them there, in that iron world,

those jealous creatures who had feared only horseshoes.
Who had survived the Norsemen’s voyages,
the long centuries of rain.

Experts in growling, overturners of pails –
how did they cope, out-roared
by the looms, no livestock to lame?

Slowly they must have faded away, recalled only
in the folding of thumbs inside fingers,
the burning of nail-pairings and hair,

hoarded witcher marbles, crooked coins –
or come down to us as names: the Skryker,
Old Trash, Lubberfiends, Grindy Low.

Most of them were dead and gone by the time
I fell into the drizzle which had once
kept cotton soft. Manchester was old now,

its mills shushed. But you could still find
one or two of the old ghosts if you searched
the dark parts of the dead factories.

There, in those derelict places under the moor,
they roved their last stronghold, watching
as we went from our mothers to play.