Friday, 18 April 2014


Does every tower built to God’s glory
End up as a monument to purely human folly?
In central Bristol, there is a church tower,
Built in the twelfth century for the Knights Templar
And it leans like the more famous tower in Pisa.
It’s been leaning since before it was even finished –
It leans like young locals and party/drug tourists
From the West Country’s far reaches.
From the windows of local offices,
Standing against straight-edged windows that don’t open,
This tower is incongruous:
It’s the only leaning structure in the Office District.
All the church towers and spires in the distance look straight.

(As a sign of a previous time,
It doesn’t remind us of anything
But as I turn back to look in at the office, I think
I am just like it.
I lean, where colleagues stand straight and tall
And I have nothing to say to them at all.)

Next door, there’s an office block
In that peculiar grey brick, specific to
Brutalist 1960s public buildings.
It’s like architects were trying to hold back the tide
Of the psychedelic colour and social change of those days.
(I think it was called Brutalism, anyway –
And, after a quick search of the internet…
What did we do before the internet?
I guess I would have had to guess.
Yes.  I was correct. 
 (Another example of Brutalist architecture
Is Preston Bus Station, where I once spent a melancholy hour
On a hot summer day, somehow cold, wrapped in grey concrete,
With no light peering in.
Which was interesting.))

And I wonder if the Knights Templar
Realised their church would still be here
Nearly a thousand years later
(as well as, round the corner, a chain pub that bears their name)
When office workers would stroll the grounds
With take-away coffee, and never even consider – or even notice –
The leaning tower, and its’ stark answer to the post/modern and the secular,
And the technology that now sustains us.

It seems to me a mobile phone mast
From a bygone era – obsolete technology
From an age when an interpreter was required
To read the bible and decipher its signals
And guard the information within,
Interpreting it in the interest of power and order
And buildings keep the unwanted out
And the wanted in,
And facades were almost always intimidating
When Power spoke in symbols
And everybody knew exactly what it was saying.
And I wonder if the basic principles have changed
Or if technology has enabled us
To stay the same

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