Embankment Gardens by Mary Cunningham


Twilight paints this strip of The Smoke

to slumber. Slow, separate, in the gathering light,

Earth closing the space between them,

her last word still looping, she peels a kiss from lolling lips

whilst a dredger ship tows past to the Dogs.

She gulls and swoops her prey and the crawling

kerbs of engines queue, spitting their back-tracks

through ward-like streets while the full-fat stop

in the sky steals a glance to the Gherkin’s glimmer

and the lusty Dome who echo renaissance cries.

His shirt side-pulled, her rosy palm creams

whipped egg-white and eggplant flesh, a green belt

silent unhinged release to blow from the city’s cheeks.

Blind steel screeches at the station of the Cross

and the myopic Eye spins its empty round

losing by inches the lovers’ thrall and thrash.

A woman passes, averting her senses,

pulling her dog from the scent

fanning from her offered-high posy

while she hoods, in her mouth, his silks and spices

and shields him from beastly intent.

He loves me, he loves me not –

Tubes beat and drum beneath the verge.

Violet neons surge and bend from the stars away;

street-lights in disharmonic disarray.

The garden swells for its disciple,

the smell of earth-worm rings in her nose

pulling her tethered head to his on the turf,

their mouths in rounds, faint beat of hearts,

flesh mole-mounds gasp and suckle.

Warm moans, venerate decay,

she clasps the night to the day.



Mary Cunningham, recently selected for the 2021-22 cohort of the Writing West Midlands Room 204 Development Programme, is an emerging writer from Shropshire. She writes poems for the page and the stage and performs regularly at Shrewsbury Poetry and Manchester Speakeasy.

8 December 2021