Frome II | Andrew Hirst

When all you could hear in the city cafes
was talk of the expected yield,
I sat impervious, counting small grain
like this in my mind.

At one particular time (the markets
were also buoyant then) I occupied one city
whilst my brother lived in another.
I managed, scraping by
on the smallest income, by keeping
my expenditure low and walking the thinnest line.
My brother’s performance was outstripping
mine annually three or four fold
and often he would call with the offer of a meal
which I seldom accepted because
it was difficult for me to reciprocate.

Then came a time for clipping back
(a time for the gathering of roots) and my brother
could again see the benefit of beginnings
(of information broadcast hand to mouth)
– during that time we lived in the same city.

Because my brother didn’t forget
that hunger in a time of plenty, today
whenever talk surfaces and questions
on expected yields flourish and the two cities
again begin to emerge, you will find him
sitting in the city cafes, neither chiding now
nor honouring, but sitting in silence, rolling
the small grain of that time under his tongue.

From Frome I-XII (Longbarrow Press, 2007). Listen to Andrew Hirst reading this poem: