The Walk to Work - Rhys Owain Williams
‘I am constantly waiting for something to kick in.’
– graffiti found in Uplands, Swansea
At the head of Bryn-y-Mor, an old man with a sandwich board waves at morning commuters. Jesus Loves You. Mae Iesu’n Caru Ti. Though the air is heavy with the possibility of snow, white daffodils have begun to sprout in the flowerbeds of St James’s churchyard. Bus-stop acquaintances discuss the price of petrol.
tight to the lamp post –
a crowd of white stargazers,
envelope still sealed
Twenty minutes from opening, a barber sweeps the last of yesterday’s hair from his floor. Breaching the nimbostratus, sunlight bounces between his polished chrome, springing out of the shop’s front door to blind the street’s eyes and windows. Exhaust fumes rise from the line of traffic on Walter Road, mixing with the smell of coffee beans and microwaved bacon.
Two boys in hoods pass me, pushing cement mixers like prams. For some, the working day’s countdown has already begun. Outside the English language centre, a circle of well-wrapped men speak in a more comfortable tongue.
cracking old tarmac
on the tree-cleared boulevard –
the memories of roots
Over Mansel Street, three bras hang in solidarity, supported by the raised wire that runs between Bunnies Health Club and the Women’s Aid. Anti-climb fence panels surround the old Albert Hall’s crumbling edges. The street is being spot-cleaned, renovated in patches. In the centre of a freshly-painted white wall, a black marker-pen message: Wendy I still love you.
caught on my sleeve,
a long, flickering strand
of someone else’s hair
Trigger-happy snoozers, running too late to break the fast at home, dive in and out of Tesco Extra – promising themselves that tomorrow morning will bring porridge, a slow cup of tea. Three half-drunk lager bottles sit abandoned outside the magistrates’ court. Half-full, or half-empty? Changing traffic lights at the crossroads force a switch to the pavement on the other side. Must keep moving forward.
at Clifton Hill’s foot,
a runaway orange wrinkles
in the winter sun
A shortcut takes the route past the Ragged School. Fovnded 1847. Rebvilt 1911. A free education for the children of the Victorian slums. Later a soup kitchen, a bomb shelter. Now, in these gentler times, Swansea’s Centre for Psychic & Educational Healing. Amongst the notices Blu-Tacked to its window: ingredients for a recipe from the Dyfatty Street food bank, and a flyer advertising a coach trip to the jungle of Calais.
bolt without thunder –
from a loose flagstone,
a shot of old rainwater
From the train station pour the straphangers – suited and booted for careers in indifference. They stream out of Ivey Place, down High Street, across Alexandra Road. Pavement maintenance creates a bottleneck outside The Grand Hotel, giving sleepy Swansea a taste of Waterloo and Victoria, Liverpool Street and King’s Cross. As the minutes tick towards 9 o’clock, the remaining crowd withdraws to buses, taxis, shops, cafés. At the station’s entrance, a busker strums beneath Pete Ham’s blue plaque. The familiar lyrics rise into the air, making their way as far as the open window on Alexandra House’s fourth floor.
clouds gather –
an old man empties a bag of rock salt
that looks like snow