Once a riverran
Like cord of grey churning muscle,
Through a valley
And a city.
Current rolling, pulsing and twisting muddy waters
To the sea and back again at the same time
Running with and against the tide,
Like the city, it never ceased,
On cold winter nights, it sweated mist;
But, if the night was still,
The mist could not rise.
Every house in the city burnt a coal fire,
Nearly every adult who lived there smoked,
And then there was a time
When all the cars, buses and lorries
Smog was born
And the mist and smog embraced each other
And lay down like satisfied lovers
In a sleeping yellow embrace
Above the city,
Smothering breath and life in a poisonous blanket
So every still night when the smog laid down
Hundreds died beneath.
“Give us clean air!”, the people cried
“Stop the coalfires!,
And clean the car exhausts!
Stop smoking! Cut carbon monoxide!”
Then the old smog, made illega,l died
And fewer people did.
But death was just resting for a decade or two,
Then it smiled and said:
“I’ll find a way to return,
And choke the life from your lungs and heads;
I’ll make a finer blanket now
Than the smog of old
And when the sun is bright
And the air is still,
I’ll weave a cloth of car fumes,
And lay it over the city
So that they’ll gasp for breath and cough in vain,
Again and again,
Just like they did when my smog was thick
My clear killing veil
Will hang invisible above the city
So they’ll still die for me
As the river rolls on and on
And passes the poisoned people by.