Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 278: Cumbernauld

New Town
New neighbours spoke to my mother
of old, unfamiliar lives.
Tenemental Riddrie, Dennistoun, Townhead;
tubercular, crowded, tarmac-flattened.
No growing up cowed by North Sea winds -
lungs full of linoleum
Kernel of a town, newly minted -
hand-picked by some benevolent giant,
squarely placed, fully formed.
Ready to receive refugees
from grimy beginnings.
Spit on a hankie and rub them clean.
The town planner specified shiny, new materials:
Bright, white concrete
punctuated by primary-coloured doors,
The public relations officer whispered seductively
of fitted carpets;
built-in kitchens;
electric hobs;
and adjustable central heating.
The acidic scent of yellow broom
tip-toed from each pebbled planter,
wove around our wrists as we belted balls off brick.
Every tree was circled and guarded
judged too young to survive the winter.
They flourished, breaking through stone.
Budding and bursting,
while we fried eggs on the pavement,
in a scalding Scottish summer.
Sarah Smith


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