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.’