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State of the City Vanessa Kisuule

Bristol City Poet
Vanessa Kisuule

Written by Vanessa Kisuule

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This poem was performed on 16 October 2019 at the event Delivering for Bristol: The Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address and Debate.

The cars cough tar
and the air hangs thick,
the trees sigh slow
as our kids get sick.
Our fears hang loose
as the warped clock tocks,
it tock tick tocks
and our slack jaws lock.
We flex our wrists
*cough* clear our throats,
heads come together
as we see what floats.
We swallow our fear
though it haunts our ribs,
solemn vows of change
hang heavy on lips.
The cars cough tar
and the air hangs thick,
the birds sing grief,
And our mouths house grit.
Some thick fat tongues
speak sound bite clouds,
We have no faith
in those empty sounds.
We drive through town
In our speed shaped shells
Then drive back home
Overwhelmed by the smell
The cars cough tar
and the close air gasps,
Will this now be
Bristol’s epitaph?

We can’t hang back
And we can’t give up
Can’t lean on chance
Or rely on luck
We must serve all
Not just Clifton folk
It’s the poorest parts
That will feel the choke
Think broad and fair
It is bigger than us
Those on the edge
Matter just as much
Give the homeless hope
Don’t just move them on
They too have a pride
And the right to belong
The streets are ours
So let’s treat them so
Do not think dark
Where there’s light, there’s growth
Let’s dust off bikes
And our walking shoes
Make all streets safe
so we can walk through
But change must come
From our leaders first
For they hold the strings
To the public purse
In Lawrence Hill
Parents can’t catch trains
No ramp for prams
And no signs of change
If we must ditch
All the toxic cars
We need cheap travel
To get near and far
The bus must be
on budget, on time
The bike paths smooth
as a seamless rhyme.
We dream big dreams
For the kids we’ve birthed
Now let’s sow seeds
In the patient dirt
Perhaps naive
To believe in more
But live on we must
But what on earth for?
To stroll in groups
In the rain and sun
As the kids breathe deep
and the sweet air hums.
Our pathways wide
As the trees are tall,
The city’s lungs swelling
As a new dawn calls.

Header Photo: Vanessa Kisuule (Evan Dawson).

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