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by Mariam Taha

Lucinda, aged 6, 1792

I run along the edge of the waterway.
Cries of other children, whirl around me in a joyful chorus.
I am waiting, watching, patiently, above the grand old bridge.

Little girls and boys pick up pebbles,
and throw them into the water,
and they fall down like summer rain,
over the water.

Sitting placidly, it stares back at us,
like a fond grandmother,
happy to be surrounded by those who love her.

But I love her most,
especially now, as my father appears on the horizon.
“Lucinda!” I hear his shouts, and smile joyfully.
The canal had brought prosperity and money to my family,
and returned the smile to my father’s wan face,
after days of honest toil.

***

Lucy, aged 14, 2013

I walk along the canal, my converses bright pink next to the dirty grey slushy water.
I am oblivious, plugged into my iPod, miles away from the grey water, graffiti, and filth.
An old boot floats in the water, a gift from some drunk or other to the water.
The smell of rot and decay assaults my nostrils even when I close my eyes, in their coating of Emerald Shimmer eye shadow.

The whispers ‘shh-shh’ in my ear as I hurry, my shoes slipping over the uneven gravel.
I bend down and touch the water, recoiling at its slimy, oily surface.
I wipe my hand on my jeans,
and can almost feel it looking at me reproachfully.
“Sorry”, I whisper, my smile rueful.

And I am.
Sorry It’s been reduced to this pitiful state.
But still, in the middle of this urban disaster,
where the orange glow draws a veil on the beauty of the stars,
and grey concrete crushes any grass with the audacity to grow,
it is something.

And something special too,
because there’s still an echo.
Of what it once was.

What it might have been.