Tipton

by Roy McFarlane

Tipton, this tongue-tipping
double syllable of a word,
this Bermuda Triangle
between Brum and Wolves.
This lost city quintessentially
Black Country, God’s belly button
of the Universe has got me.

I’m 10 and visiting the cousins,
the only black family in Princess Ends.
Streets wide enough to pass on gossip
and a horse in somebody’s front garden.

I watched cousins as dark as the cut,
larger than life, colourful as the Caribbean,
speak another language.
Only laughter, sweets and pots of soup
translated us back to a common understanding.

Ow’s ower kid their father would say
with vowels big and round as his obese body,
then he’d give me a sweet, slap me on my back
and laugh his way into the kitchen.
I asked my cousin what did he say?
Yam saft,
she’d say gurgling,
everybody laughing like the locks at the back,
where water poured in and everybody rises,
whether you wanted or not,
a lock that levelled off once the father
left to go to the pub or to the steelworks.

40 years later I’m back
walking past the pie factory where they serve
soul nights on sawdust covered floors.

Industries put to an eternal sleep
turning into a commuter town, it
still draws on you, pulls on you.
Yam olright it’s dem lot
that are causing de problems,

with syllables that jab and slash,
sentences like the Tipton Slasher
the bare knuckle verbosity of it.
And there’s an oss everywhere,
in somebody’s garden, along the street
and a metal oss frozen in time
by the railway station
and an anchor
on the side of the road.
Not all things are anchored
in time or in a living museum;
cultures flow, merge and make
their own journeys into front rooms
as I say to me bab bending over
I cor walk past ya without
putting me onds on ya
and I know that

Tipton, this tongue-tipping
double syllable of a word,
this Bermuda Triangle
between Brum and Wolves.
This lost city quintessentially
Black Country, God’s belly button
of the Universe has got me.