Huddle the bundle within your coat! Hold it close, as you slip-slide down a sludge-clay claggy bank to the drainage canal. There was stream here once, they said, back before…
…but none of that matters now. Earth, sky, water, all merge into one smoggy hue, this smudged landscape ever sullen, never heeding, forever unyielding. Crouch beside the water, paisley-patterned swirls of oily spoil atop its muddied murk. Look into a brow-beaten sky, as bruised as you, for any sign of heaven, but there’s barely a sign of life, up there, down here, nor anywhere left you can go.
Dip two fingers in the water – the dead, contaminated outflow of industry long gone. Dip your fingers. Then beneath the bundle, you hold so tight, mark a cross upon the child’s forehead. Say a blessing, remembered from school, a liturgy you never believed, and pray to the godforsaken sky, for the baby’s sake, not yours.
Huddle the child close now! Wrapped in beleaguered blankets and pages from yesterday’s tabloids, condemning lone mothers for all the nation’s woes. He’d said he’d marry you, but the next day was gone, never to return.
Hold the baby tight. Wrap her within your coat. Even in this post-industrial wasteland’s ruinous refuge of bulldozed degeneration, there are still eyes that peer. Redundantly watching, their life-starved stares gawk from filthy windows in the few remaining homes on half-demolished terraces, scanning this cruel wilderness, hoping that anything might happen. Anything at all! Any morsel their talons can spear, to spur spite-spitting tongues to crow about in the ‘Old Seaman’s Mission’. It is all that’s left for them now. Don’t get caught in the act. Cuddle your bundle close. For forlornly they gaze, day after day, seeking any prey across all this poisoned decay, to pick off without mercy.
Huddle your bundle close. Scrabble back up the bank; the air acridly acerbic in your nostrils. Look all around, at this nothingness. A rusted swing, hanging from one chain, where you came as a child, when your grandpa told you, “this was once the Garden of Eden”. You’d believed him, then, but it all grew sour. It had died when the rebel angels fell, long before the expulsion of Man who built dystopia here; where men, women and children laboured in filth foul factory fetters, for the few to create their own Edens far from the belching smoke. But that’s all gone now, too.
Hug the bundle tight, take off your coat, and swaddle the child with all the warmth you have left. Let your tears anoint her forehead. One last kiss, then place her on the Samaritans’ doorstep, whispering “Forgive me”. Ring the bell and disappear.
As your shadow merges with the grey, a motherly figure stoops, lifts the squirming bundle. She looks down the abandoned street, murmuring, “go in peace, now” to the place where your shadow may have been, then kisses the child’s forehead. And, with that kiss, perhaps, offers all the hope you never had.