Sometimes the chimney was hot or alight.
They sent us up anyway, mostly naked.
At night we, sleeping black,
dreamt of the bakers on Lothbury,
of tight flues and endless winding.
The first time Jonny went up,
there was not even four years behind him.
He was up while the chimney was cold,
before the morning fire was lit. His skinny limbs,
cramped, waited for the mason’s cutting tools.
Luck for the bride who sees us perhaps.
But we are black and blind with falling soot.
We are burnt and scraped, our knees
set to fire with brine and brush
to harden our small hearts.
In the fairy tales, the sweep finds love
with a porcelain shepherdess.
After May day, we are turned from the table
to which we return, for the world gifts us
only sack cloth and ashes.
there is no cap coarse enough
to keep the soot from eye or mouth
No talisman of brass cap badges
to shame the master who sends them up
to fall from roofs and chimneys
to lodge in flues and suffocate
Whose son has fire set under him
his heels pricked to mend his pace
This is the cold fate of he who is alone
whose mother has died, left his body
for the world to take and make coal
and whose back is bent in youth
his scrotum set to eat itself away
we die knowing what is denied us
air and love, a clean wanting
we fall, we hope, to something warm
that union that sought us out
first as fire now as ash
has left us invisible, sooty faced
only grace lets us fall
- 99: BROWNFACESUBMIT NOW with W S Dunn 98: SINGAPORECOMING SOON with A Pang and J Ip 97: PROPAGANDACOMING SOON with M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones