Death in the Suburbs

A poem by Adrian Henri:

the earth moves sudden tiny snowstorms of cherryblossom a black cat runs apprehensive flocks of starlings startle from bushes slow-growing crescendo of crashing picture-windows gardens uprooted blown        pinkandwhite        skyhigh frozen agonies of begonias held for a moment liike a blurred polaroid lawns flung like carpets golfclubs    potting sheds    wheeled shopping-baskets hurled into orbit

depfreezes burst open prepackaged meals spilling everywhere invitations to whist-drives    coffee mornings letters to long-haired sons at campus universities never to be delivered pinboards    posters of Che Guevara stereo systems continental quilts     rows of neat lettuces blameless chihuahas    au pair girls still wet from dreams of Italian waiters mothers in law    bullfight trophies    sensible sooden toys whirled helples in a vortex rockeries like asteroids blizzards of appleblossom against the April sunlight

villa after villa flickers off like television birdsounds blur into the silence heaps of white entrails nestling amid lilies-of the-vlley ripple like tarmac gravel chatters        the crazy dance of pavingstones whole avenues implode gantries and railway bridges quiet sidings engulfed by avalanches of privet and howthorn waves of chalk earth flecked with hemlock and nettle-roots burying commuter stations

far away the first distant ripples flutter dovecots disturb the pigeons roosting in oasthouses weekend cottages doff their thatch to the sky mountaintops tumble like cumuli gales of earth ravage through ryefields pylons tremble like seismographs cries of children circling like seagulls echo the distance

a solitary picnicker sitting on a breakwater above the red flint-strewn beach hears the distant thunder as clifftops crumble looks up from the light scumbling the silver water ro see the horizon catch fire showers of small stones smell of uprooted samphire the last slive of ham    a packet of biscuits    the small black notebook slip away unseen as the concrete rears vertical his ears’ last echo the cires of lost sea-birds one dirfting pink petal catches the dying sunlight

And speaking of surburbs, here’s something a lot of my friends agree with: increase density in high-density cities, while moving people from suburbia back into downtown, in order to lessen the overall environmental impact.

I’m not so sure I agree with the tactic, since cities by definition require resource extraction and transport, i.e. sucking the surrounding landscape dry. But it’s something to think about. In the meantime, here’s part of the reason that suburbia sucks. Let’s run down just the top of the list, shall we? Stormwater runoff, chemically treated deadzones—er, lawns, SUVs, obesity, boredom, Libertarianism… A lot of things are wrong in the suburbs these days.


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