Justin Quinn

Two Poems

Skøg Urban Hub Elegy

                              i.m. Ivan Blatný

While outside spring is warming up the land,
you’re sitting here with me in this café,
a little chilly, as you’ve slept in clay
so long, a little tremor in the hand,

but otherwise you’re fine as you take in
the place you left some eighty years ago.
There isn’t much new stuff for you to know.
Mainly the ghosts will wonder how you’ve been,

orphaned so young and raised by your grandmother,
then orphaned by your home town when you left
for England, forever afterwards bereft,
having exchanged one country for another.

Meanwhile the spring is waking up the weeds
in pavement cracks and cobbles on the square
of nineteenth-century apartment buildings where
you lived; it’s waking up at different speeds

the flowers and leaves of alder, birch and ash
along the city’s rail embankments; waking
green from the ground beside gasholders’ flaking
paint and gorgeous rust: a flame, a flash

that sets the place alight. Winter’s done for,
and heat brings looseness to the limbs around us.
Let’s order now: the inked waiter has found us
like two Braun statues on a factory floor.

The postindustrial café’s filled with the young
in one another’s arms, offline or on.
Welcome back to all this! While you were gone
it more or less continued, but unsung

so well as you sang it. What have the years
left of you here? Or left of anyone?
Let’s go and see. Here’s Brno in the sun –
the city’s full of hints and souvenirs.

We’ll borrow skateboards, see if we can’t find
the old addresses by the new signposts
and stop for tea with both your parents’ ghosts:
they’ll cry and hug you, a child so shy and kind.


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