Hallam Towers

Hallam Towers is a series of poems with photographs that I wrote while obsessing over and occupying an abandoned building in Sheffield, both mentally and physically exploring the spaces it created. The interplay of text and image is not supposed to be illustrative, but sometimes it is.

As the building has been demolished over the past fortnight, this has become an elegy of sorts, but its various signs continue to signify and interact with Sheffield, its society and its collective memory in ever evolving ways.These disused institutions keep creating stories and adventures long beyond their demise as public or even physical spaces.

Here is the opening sequence:

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1) Point Of Entry

Gunmetal    blue wood fence    leaps
into straw with a slip of the sunlight.

The abandoned garden wrapped
in razor wire or slicked with ink left
to tattoo each point of trespass.

Hands remember being   eight years old
efficiently feeling out    the knotted contours
of ascending branch biceps-

clothes tear on steel barbs    green finger
-tips from the nervous    lichen clasping    traverse
that ends hung above
our destination.

Take moments to breathe.
Feel the stomach churn of vertigo, the rising
lactic burning in   calcifying tendons, then
let go-

 

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2) WARNING

Construction/demolition site – enter at your own risk.
Head, I and ear
protection required.

 

16A_0015

 

3) Target

Squared steeple of a brutalist wet dream.
Pillar propping thick quilts of fog up,
reaching space-wards.

*

When I was six I was taught the trick of aligning little ink stained fingers- just so- to forge a link to heaven.

What rushing as pastel light stretched from scratched nails to meet the sunbeams!

*

At 2:58 a cloud break illuminates
the tower- pale white at its base
but shit-shaded up high by the strafing of chattering starlings.

The sundial shadow intersects tree roots
of childhood               frogspawn halt their blinking
in the ponds.

Gaze stretches up to the sudden dusk;
treasure digging stops to admire the shredding
of the skies lacuna by this square eclipse,
by some shadow
I wish to flood.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 12.21.00

 

4) Look Up

On haunches     legs still sprung with
sinews full of the fall.

Scrape dirt from pebble-punctured palm heel.
Check ankle: turned after mis-reading terra
firma: sore but useable: clunky hinge.
No spare parts anyhow.

Slowly stand    exhaling    coiled tension    or
try-

my heart rate races the drone of small flies
swarms over cakes of decaying
pine needles brushed off grey denim knees,
leaving forest scent-spectres
which later haunt laundry with memories.

But now
still hums with tiny life and sunlight
the pine cones are still     wide open     I’m too early.
The thought rattles me     out of the stasis of evergreens
planted to make this hotel ever-young

now red lights and a lens
mark a moving image glanced by multiplying other
eyes…

I decide to walk calmly through the shot
in the tradition of unnoticed film extras
– it pays –
but how do you consciously walk
naturally?

At school I never played an attendant lord,
never mind Hamlet.

*

[Control Room: captures focus on the wonky walk of a kid trying to be invisible as his limbs move- klunky, dyskinetic – between duct tape crosses on the school stage, between the gunmetal blue and the straw light. Laughter rings for a while, then fingers hit buttons and binary departs down the wires…]

*

 

A squirrel sifting rubble for acorns     senses     twitches
bolts away with my kinetic energy, leaving me in a rigor –

a cacophony of polyphonic sirens razing- panic racing
to a speed heart rate anticipated                   chest pains
dart down arms to frozen finger tips                all action
condensed to the head
and eyes wincing in security lights.

TANNOY: Warning, you are trespassing, the police have been informed.
Warning, you are trespassing, the police have been informed.
Warning, you are trespassing, the police have been informed.

Mute metamorphosis: beam trapped rabbit in The Grapes Of Wrath-
squeal,                                                                                       imagine that
being
your final thought.

 

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