Hardly one open shop remains
Inside this draughty vending hall:
It never gets to share the circulation
Of carrier-bagged pedestrians with cash to spare.
Business is so bad that the discount clothing store
Closes for lunch from eleven till quarter to four.
Sometimes its twin flights of escalators function,
Sometimes not, while its mirrors reflect no one,
And most of the shutters are pulled down
In front of premises that went out of fashion
As soon as the new mall opened
On the other side of Queen Street.
That invites immediate penetration
Via portals quite as broad as its facade,
Whereas the merest passageway
Provides the earlier project
With access to its bright and bustling side.
Room, on the lofty levels within,
For forty lavish units, nothing small;
However, a perversion of design
Has caused its enormous plate glass wall
To advertise their presence on a side street.
Were it not for some desultory guardianship,
One might ravish an erring secretary
Undisturbed in this vast concrete grot.
It’s got more to meditate on actually
Than has your haunt for conventional worship.
Raise your eyes to its uppermost panes:
There a blue vision of happier times
Gets promoted by a wide ribbon of sky
Where buxom clouds go sailing past
Like the bargains that would peel away
From the windows of those rural stores
They’ve locked and boarded up at last.
From Dancers in Daylight by Anthony Howell, Anvil Press Poetry, London, 2003.