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Updated: Mar 19, 2022

The girl has shoes on her feet –

hand-me-downs, scuffed in and comfy –

with petrol fume lungs

and a head full of stories.

“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river!”

How clever the words that give her belonging,

clever the lines that fire up her longing

with soft incantations – rising and falling.

“Within, as the river wound,”

is the shadow of Magwitch,

hunched darkly and waiting,

like a hulk on the water.

Our girl takes a sea-weedy breath of the river:

a warm breath of knowing

that there’s more where this came from.

“Twenty miles of the sea”

She whispers the words

to the rhythm of walking

and chants, “Ours was the marsh”

as her feet pound the pavements

of Military Road, where a low leaden sky

gives taste to the meaning,

handed to her through the bleak years between them.

Face flushed, coat damp with the drizzle of Medway,

she whispers farewell to Pip and Estella,

shudders a bit at the swish of the tickler;

grins at the convict’s gnarled hand on her shoulder.

She sings to her past, her present and future:

‘Mine is the marsh country, down by the river.’

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