'Birmingham Roller' was commended in the 2011 National Poetry Competition

Birmingham Roller

by Liz Berry

We spent our lives down in the blackness… those birds brought us up
to the light. – Jim Showell, Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country

Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.

Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,

yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.

Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers

just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.

Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you

jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January

and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.


Black Country / Standard
wench / affectionate name for a female
yowm / you are
cut / canal
owd / old
tranklement / bits & bobs or ornaments
onds / hands
jeth / death
jimmucking / shaking
babby / little child
donny / hand

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