The Calm before the Quiet


It is pretty ugly between Gravesend
and Stone Crossing. Puzzling through Rosherville,
to Northfleet’s exhausted ragstone quarry,
Kimberly Clark is making Andrex.

At Ebbsfleet, the footpath runs in zigzags
spanning voids and empty strips of railway
behind galvanised pikes battened by bars.

Half an hour later we see discarded
bottles of corrosive tipped in a ditch
and wild snapdragons grow beside hawthorns
spray-painted grey with exhaust-fume silt.

We take a wrong turning, re-trace our steps,
pass a builders’ merchant’s stockpile of slabs
and an elephants’ graveyard of buses.

At Greenhithe the rain comes. Soon silent Spring
will spread – not unlike the virus – and hide
hedgerow crud beneath blankets of brambles,
nettles, bindweed, storksbill and bittercress.