A Breathing Space

park map

They called this park the Green Lung,
a lung for slum people so tightly packed
into their sooty hovels, they could barely breathe.

They planned it as a fever-break
so that City dwellers would not have to inhale
slum fever, would not know Rookery stink.

They fenced it in the rough shape of a lobe,
a reservoir of breath, with spreading paths
like the hollow branches inside a chest

where every moment an airy exchange
is made, sighs start, songs are conceived,
everything that enters comes out altered.

This afternoon, there’s a flurry of parakeets
and a white scent of hawthorn softens
the breeze. Our poisonous miasma

furls away behind the tower blocks. For a while,
the air tastes easy, like when this place belonged
to marsh wind and watercress and herons.

Alex Josephy

NOTE: ‘Rookery’ was a name given to slum areas in the East End of Victorian London.

If you have any comments on this poem,  Alex Josephy  would be pleased to hear from you.