TYBURN (a neck verse)

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after Peter Linebaugh

 

cranes over tyburn
(‘marble arch place’)

paddy-necks, bull-necks, they came to hang, they came to hang
at the tyburn crossroads, twenty-four necks a time on the crossbeams,
yahoo-necks, prole-necks, they who lived amid dung and refuse,
they who lived by a waste economy, they who spat at the law
excluded from law’s grace, poor-mouthing
Lords Hategood and Vainglory

picaro-necks, rapparee-necks, conveyed in eight carts to be hanged
by the brook, hauled through dust and dirt, jolted over every rut,
highwayman-necks, receiver-necks, the roast beef of old England
bought and sold over pot and pipe, absconding from turnpikes
to the commons, petit traitors
to causes not theirs

sharper-necks, higgler-necks,
pilferer-necks, poacher-necks,
gatekeeper-necks
tollkeeper-necks

necks of the tyburn martyrs, swilling their pint-jugs of anaesthetic

*

scaffolds on the present-day site at Edgware Road, tall cranes
in the shape of a T, the Norman look of the building works,
base jacks, mesh, tubes bristling upright like palisades, a fleur
de lys pattern on the advertising hoardings

inside, orange diggers drill, maybe they’ll disturb a relic, the name
of the luxury homes will be ‘The Bryanston’, no one will notice
invisible men and women dangling from the main transoms
where the Odeon used to be
and the boutique cinema is coming soon

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Niall McDevitt

 

TYBURN (a neck verse) was first published in The Wolf http://www.wolfmagazine.co.uk/35index.php

(I am grateful to Peter Linebaugh’s tragic magnum opus The London Hanged
for some of the vocabulary and phraseology of the poem)
https://www.versobooks.com/books/202-the-london-hanged

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About Niall McDevitt

Niall McDevitt > poet > author of b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2012) > urban explorer > radical pedestrian who leads Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud /Yeats walks, among others.
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