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The Great Divide

She looked at me and saw the bitter streets
where I was born, the valley floor that offered
no escape, the Chartist cobbles hard rain
glistened on, and everywhere a sense of failing light

streaking the uplands, making a theatre of them
as it did – the unrelenting grimness of the north,
its chapels, pit-heads, slag heaps, union halls,
processions through the darkness, millstone grit,

one great red furnace blazing from the Humber
to the Sheaf – fought over, misbegotten, stratified.
She looked straight through me to my father’s eyes
black-rimmed and smiling after a long shift.

And as she gazed across the great divide,
I let the balance of the landscape strain and give
as if the world itself were undermined
and felt – not pity at the thought of it – but anger first, then pride.

Ian Parks

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