“If William Morris were alive today
he would turn over in his grave,” she said.
Reneging on co-operative roots,
weasly traders attempt to fob folk off
with cheap crazed pottery and Repro stuff
under bestriding Betjeman pylons
in the shadow of a silver Kaaba:
Sainsbury’s Savacentre. Poor Topsy
would have topped himself to see his named pub,
a Riverside Free House, serving (slowly)
Pre-Raphaelite burgers and Liberty
Jacket potatoes. Some spoof has written
under “Today’s Specials”: Leek and Cat Shit
Pie, £1.75 and Spinach and
Scrotum Quiche, £2.75. Thick smoke
reminds one of past local industries:
snuff and tobacco. Wading through potholes
one wonders at the willow-fringed Wandle
where fine printed silks were dipped by his hands,
dark, indigo-stained, like those large blue plums
which grew on the wall in his Woodford plot
in days when he rode through Epping Forest
in his miniature toy suit of armour,
looking for dragons to slay. Now he knew
dyeing was an art and when the fierce floods
whipped the millwheel into activity
such as might have wrecked the very millhouse,
he may have thought his enterprise would fail
like the relationship with the beauty
who was such a burden to him. But now
his Strawberry Thieves grace the punters’ ties.
“Have only beautiful or useful things”
falls on deaf ears, as past ideals take wings
and shopping trolleys fill with plastic junk
purchased from the monopolising store
which conserves workshops, but kills small growers.
Morris, you should be living at this hour.
England hath need of thee! Here be dragons.