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Among These Dark Satanic Mills

For Sleep Draft's Eavesdropping Sleepy Mission

By Hannah MoorePublished 2 months ago 2 min read

Dusk in the back streets of the town centre,

Moving through the decades,

From Georgian to Victorian,

Early then, crossing the railway,

That steel serpent, snaking from the City to the sea,

Late, turreted gothic flourishes giving way,

To efficient terraces with tiled stoops,

Chipped and pining for Arts and Crafts long since

Supplanted with barely a Deco nod,

By post-war economy.

And here the money stops.

Here the people stopped coming to promenade,

A century before the shutters went down

On shop after shop until

Barbers and Bubble Tea and phone case kiosks

Make Primark a beacon to boast of.

Here, besides the palisade fencing

Shielding trespassers from the rail track,

I hear the men. Loud voices, vexed voices.

I know this patch of track, the place police check first

When desperate men are lost.

I know this patch of town, the stabbings,

The sexual offences, the weekend violence,

The don’t walk alone at night of it.

I peer through the palisade,

Seeking shapes on the almost dark embankment

Where wilderness clamours in snatched ribbons,

Hawthorn and Buddleia as grimed as each other,

Regardless who arrived first.

But the scrub is undisturbed.

I see dark shapes, then, as I round the corner,

One stood, the other slumped

Beneath the chapel of ease,

That remnant of a heyday

When the house of God needed

An overflow, for the working class.

“I can’t believe” said the standing man,

“I cannot believe that you…”

And I kept my eyes averted

From the intoxicated capriciousness

Of his pitch.

But he spoke only to the other man,

Huddled on the pavement,

And not to me.

“I cannot believe that you saw him.”

A disappointment tinged his anger,

A deflation of hope I heard

Even as I passed his sodden sleeping bag,

Not drying on the memorial bench.

Even as he lifted the bottle to his mouth.

“I talk to Jesus every night

But YOU saw him.”

And beneath his slurred words,

I heard him cry out with a loud voice

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”

And the man at his feet turned his face up

And roared. “I didn’t see Jesus,

I AM Jesus.”

And I walked quickly on,

Towards stained glass panes,

And Edwardian bays,

Afraid of getting hurt.


Authors note: Written for sleepy draft's challenge below:

At the end of the day, when I have finished work and collected the kids, and my partner gets in from work, I often go for a walk from my home near the centre of one of the UK's faded seaside towns, loved by the Victorians, but now fighting decrepitude. The foundations for our inner city social problems were laid a long time before the industrial revolution during which our urbanisations mushroomed, but we continue to blame the disadvantaged, or the immigrants, or the mentally ill, for systemic issues perpetuating inequality. Poverty is rife here, and the problems that cycle viciously with it. When I passed these two men, last week, I could see both the humour and the sadness in the overheard exchange. The humour, however, dissipated, while the sadness remained. I do not believe the answer to the issues these men face lies behind the closed doors of the church they were drinking outside, but I was reminded of Blake's poem, "And did those feet in ancient times", decades later set to music and still used to stir a nationalistic pride, and all it invokes. These men's beliefs have a history to them, and though I might question their reality, their validity is not mine to judge.

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Hannah Moore

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Comments (21)

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  • L.C. Schäfer27 days ago

    Powerful stuff, Hannah. You make me never want to write a poem again! ❤️

  • Heather Hublerabout a month ago

    Wow!! Hannah, this was unbelievably touching and raw and real. Your word choices just blew me away with how easily they brought me to the scene you imagined. And I loved the author's note. Brilliant writing!!

  • Mackenzie Davisabout a month ago

    Oh wow, Hannah, you lay such a striking foundation for the overheard snippet. The history of the place, the meaning behind the flowers, the contrast of what the place used to be versus now (a place for the rich of the past now an abandoned site for abandoned people). The Hebrew too, I like how you shielded the meaning behind the language; made the effect much more impactful for me after translating it. I also like how fear is the last note, but it feels almost like the speaker is judging herself; the reader doesn't feel scared, but questions why the speaker does, then remembers the space. Such a transportive piece. A worthy win! Congratulations!

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Brilliant writing! Definitely subscribing! Congratulations on winning sleep draft's Eavesdropping Sleepy Mission. Well deserved!

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a month ago

    Stupendous! Fabulous! Outstanding! Hannah you have created a wonderful work of thoughts, emotions, social realities, and the decay of what was once grand. You took the reader through your journey and gave us a firsthand glance of what you saw, heard, and felt. Outstanding!

  • Daphsamabout a month ago

    Wow, what a well written poem.

  • Kazi Almamun🌏2 months ago

    Love your poem

  • Ah, the humour always dissipates while the sadness remains. Loved your poem!

  • sleepy drafts2 months ago

    I am simply speechless. This was incredibly done, and I deeply appreciate your author's note. I love how you unfolded this moment so vividly and took us with you on your journey. Magnificent work. ❤️

  • Kodah2 months ago

    Interesting flow! Incredible poem , Hannah! ❤️

  • Quite the conversation to overhear. Blessings, my child.

  • Caroline Craven2 months ago

    This was epic Hannah. I have no idea where you are in the U.K. but I did my journalism training in Hastings and this is what I was picturing in my head. So good!

  • Novel Allen2 months ago

    I often feel pained walking past places like these, most abandoned, forgotten from a lost era. Such sadness, loss and waste. In societies so rich, it is a shame that people still get lost in the cracks. Maybe there is a bit of Jesus in us all. Thought provoking story.

  • Excellent story

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    This is really well done. I read it twice, and on the second read, I felt I was walking through the neighbourhood with you.

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Wow! This is amazing. This is so good my eyes are now burning! Fantastic work!

  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    I recognised Blake. Liked the trip through architecture. It is funny the overheard conversation. And it's also incredibly sad. Yes, I often wonder how people end up on the street. I can remember being approached by a wild eyed woman on the streets of San Francisco. My husband ushered my sons away while I stood and nodded as she spoke gobbledygook to me. She must have recognised something kind in my nature as she rattled away to me as she smiled, waved and wandered off in the opposite direction to my family. My littlest boy was super scared and said "Why did you stay?" I simply told him: "Because she needed to be heard." He didn't understand at all and I could see he felt worried by this but I couldn't just turn my back on her.

  • John Cox2 months ago

    My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? This is a wonderful and utterly convincing take on the overheard challenge! I love that you chose verse rather than prose for this. Incredibly evocative of both history of the surroundings and the decay. The drawing of the boundary between the proper and the lost ‘with here the money stops.’ Powerful storytelling!

  • Gerard DiLeo2 months ago

    Happy I was the first "like."

  • Gerard DiLeo2 months ago

    Great story. Here in the USA, a popular bumper sticker was "Honk if you love Jesus." I wanted one that read, "Honk if you ARE Jesus," because I wouldn't wanna cut Him off in traffic. I really enjoyed your story, especially the last line.

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