A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.
Morgan begins by describing the harshness of the weather and the rubbish strewn around the tenement block. The wind is personified by using the word
mean. The word choice suggests cruelty, as if the weather is threatening violence. It also makes us think of how bleak the weather is but also the hardened attitudes of the depressed people who have to live here.
A suggests this could be any wind and
wanders suggests that it is aimless in its direction. Paired with
mean, the wind seems like a thug circling, ready to lash out at anyone. Both imply that this place is forgotten and unimportant to anyone or anything, even the weather.
Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses/ puff briefly and subside.
Morgan's language brings inanimate objects to life, as if they were animals surviving in this bleak environment.
Hackles is an effective word choice - it discribes the ripples the wind makes on the surface of the water while suggesting a cat or dog raising the hairs on its back to look bigger in response to a threat. When the mattresses
puff, again the poet describes what is actually happening, as the wind inflates them, and suggests an animal puffing itself up to appear intimidating. However, the fact this is only done
briefly implies that there is little strength or effort, as if these are creatures that are fading or have almost given up.
Although the poem is tightly structured, Morgan uses enjambment to create unexpected turns. This is more in tune with the chaos and lack of structure of the decaying building and more modern as are the problems of the run-down estate.
There is a sense of affection amongst the decay. The
puff of abandoned mattresses could suggest sails and the ruins have thrown up
Play-fortresses for the children to make their entertainment from. However the word choice undercuts this playfulness.
subside suggests decline and the harsh sound of the colloquial
bric-a-brac returns us to the idea that this is a landscape made of broken pieces that have been thrown away. The hard sounds suggest that it is a hard place for hard people.
Fortresses is also a metaphor which suggests that the residents have barricaded themselves against the neglect of the outside world. They have developed a siege mentality and are cut off from those with more privileged lives. There is the idea here too, of violence, that deprivation has led to a mentality of conflict.
Four storeys have no windows left to smash
Morgan continues the idea of a building under threat. Not only have the windows been smashes,
left to smash implies an ongoing threat, that someone is still looking to lash out and destroy.
but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses/ mother and daughter the last mistresses
There is a dark humour in the idea of the
mother and daughter the last mistresses of this falling down building. The use of
buttresses suggests supportive and defensive structures. However, a
chipped sill is obviously not up to this job.
Mistress would normally suggest the owner of a grand house or castle. Morgan uses the term ironically, giving these last residents a status that the building does not really give on them. They live there and may own or rent their own flat but they are mistresses of nothing worth having. Morgan confirms this when he describes the building as
condemned not to fall but to remain in place. It would be better for all if the authorities reduced the residents’ misery by demolishing the whole thing and starting again.