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Inside Out: An Audiotour

7 / 10 The Crossing of Kenworthy Road

By the curved brick wall, cross over Kenworthy Road. Take one or two paces down toward the Marshes then cross over Homerton High Street. Stop on the other side of the road. Look back at the old asylum opposite, sanitised for the 21st Century, reborn as a new institution. Walk uphill toward it, back up Homerton High Street, and stop when you reach the library on the corner.

Walk uphill with poet and patient Howard Mingham, and listen to his poem ‘Broken Water’:

'Dog black-and-white it flits,
skips in a gutter,
happy rubbish on the wind,
jerks in a gust, like traffic,
ducks and drakes across the city

past halls smelling of polish and parquet,
past halls smelling of cats and cabbage,
past tower-blocks and announced cement,
past dinner-houses of children scattered in play,
past the troops that do not work,
past the force that do not work,
past the idle

It ducks and drakes across the city
dumb as rag
and blind where children are not pretty,
where roomfuls of family
do not burst from the curtained crevices,
where workless people remain unending
deaf and simple and uncomprehending
it ducks and drakes
past the hospitals
with the azure pictures of threatened lakes.

Beneath your feet an essence is running,
thick as oil, thick as drumming, an early
dark madness we had forgotten:
the sewers are swollen,
boxes and cardboard and cartons of water,
all that is used, unused, undone
kept by habits that tremble under ground,
all effort to contain exhausted
are vomiting sound, vomiting sound.
All the parts are leaving,
clocks and daylight,
shops, factory, obedience, girls;
a bull of water swells,
boxes and cardboard and cartons of water,
wet symbols like bells
clatter in a flow of water and loss,
decay itself, removing us.

In these unused canals a flood,
derelictions that rattle on the light
and call to the body of your unemployed blood.
Where are the gifts
of the chain-department-store
and further, further there is more.

Behind you the pigeons cooing like pneumonia
and as always as hunger, unsteady cats.

Your small heart is cracking like bottles.

Not thought nor faith nor objects holds
in this broken water or arthritic catch.'

‘Broken Water’ printed by Centerprise in 1984 © Estate of Howard Mingham c/o David Kessel and Emmy van Deurzen. The poem appears in an anthology celebrating Howard Mingham’s brief life, shortly after he fell to his death from a block of flats in Cambridge Heath Road.

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The crossing of Kenworthy Road, 2016 © Patrick Henry
Walk uphill past the old asylum, 2016 © Patrick Henry