Perhaps, past-struck, a horse-drawn hearse
has pulled you up the hill to here;
or, in some census, scanner-smeared,
his name, her job, fuzzy and terse;

or nothing as old or grand as grief.
A sandwich to break up the day.
Across the humming Middleway,
a dog’s dim glimpse of green relief.

Between death’s mansions, starched and stout,
lie graves crowded as Hockley courts
with setters’ sons and jewellers’ daughters.
We live in flats. It gets us out.

Absent a church, a birch tree breathes
its blessing on the catacombs.
Without a thought of grace or gloom,
a squirrel skitters through the leaves.

This poem was written in July 2020 when Richard O’Brien was Birmingham Poet Laureate, it was inspired by memories of cemetery visitors and his own experiences living in the Jewellery Quarter. Many of these stories can be found on this website.

Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project


This project is possible because of funding from: