Town-boy meets Square-boy. The inner-city meets the suburbs. Town is an exploration of the conflicting mentalities of the country and the city. It's a compelling tale of love, ambition and class. It's a study in English suburban misery and an indictment of a divisive education system. It's an epic poem about failure in loving, failure in living.



Town inviting town
          town of night light
and nature as humankind has made it
          town our home our undwelling
new primeval forest
          this loom–transformed hilltopped town
smiling to a hilltopped boy dipping
          dizzily to the dirty river and up
up in a weepless sweep to the dirty lovely town. 

          And this is where I came to make my life
a corner plot a hedge a lawn a house
  four–bedroomed bigger than the common three
          and married to a man whose brains I thought
       should take him far
  should let him climb and shine
          we fell below my hopes which I let fall
on my three offspring well–spring of my pride
     the last conceived in beer and oh be damned
an accidental boy in every way
     low oxygen at birth to be the cause
         of his slow mind in all my saving tales
how else to face
     that this was born of me
            this poor–brained fool set sure to fail my hopes		
oh had I known my womb could grow such shame
I would have crushed his tiny new–born head
     or drowned him in a bucket like a runt
this lump this blob this living lack of worth
        this carthorse born of me a thoroughbred
          no better than the low that live in town
and slave in factories
as their birth dictates
          and all my signs of better undermined
   by this one fact this ever–present mark
   this blot upon election's pristine page
       my son town–brained street–gened
    not one of us.

      And how did I the dirty low town–boy
come to the clear clean suburb
          is nothing safe or sacred
1955 my dockside dad
       ten years demobbed
         got money as the poor always do
by graft or gift or luck
        chance chucked my terraced urchin's chin
plucked me from the mean and treeless streets
into this paradise of space and grass
        into this hell of snobs
       and he the son my age of a sniffy town–free mother
     mismatch of the take–it–as–it–comes back–alley kid
and unloved prove–me–worthy cup–on–the–mantlepiece scion
  so in that clash of class and attitude
       ignored for friendship's sake
          (for what mad child will freeze a friend
      if lonely playfulness like dead eternity
is else)
         a had–its–day past met a breech birth future
       in groves made monied
     by the dirty work of the lovely dirty town.

And I was an insurance man her man
       I knew the fine print and the patter
how to cover your wife		
(but earth is all I would have covered my own wife with)
       your life your death
         your ill health and your good health
your children and your wealth and your children's wealth
and your children's children's wealth
        your house its contents				
and the contents of its contents
insured against all loss theft and perdition
insured to hell								
        like a prayer to heaven
     and heaven was a woman half my age
who had a leisure in her way and voice
      that calmed my blood
         and cooled my poor head's fever
pain that rose from my tight gripping neck
when her sharp voice
a jagged–toothed whistling saw
          whirred through my nerves
her will to argument
a million vicious volts arrowing through my arteries
the poor trapped bird of my heart flapping for release
    one policy I should have taken out
against a bitter woman
so sweet the spent–out hours
        working day
       but oh the loving night
April sun on frozen snow of my iglooed marriage
          this primrose in the brambles
this lick of ice in desert's midday parch

     how did she know

       just this she said to me that she just knew
the quiet in me
my blood's slow fuse at her goad of command
(my hard yet hard enough
      and at her bid
        perfunctory detached
        and found us out one afternoon
   from pub to pub
        each café scoured for signs
together like a simple pair of kids
as if her bed unhusbanded and mine 

   We'll move.

I had to leave
to stand one final happiness with her
         on the dry flat shore					
by the distant quiet sea
  one last peak of heart's–peace
before the grey expanse of lovelessness
encircled me as far as hope could see
and all I'd ever gaze on
          the dry unflowered landscape						      
blown over by the dusty winds
of blank recrimination.

So we came to the big square house on the hill
        big square couple
         couple in the big square house
with our big square minds
        and our four square children
         four sides of our big square world
six sides of the blank cube of our getting–on existence
       and we were getting on
          up here on the pleasant hill
in the big square house with the big square garage
      for our big square car
          and the big square school
       with all the requisites of big square status
(the Latin motto buggery and rugger)
        and so I mowed the big square lawn
and smiled the smile that showed my big square teeth		  
         and laughed my big square laugh
and when I lost my angled temper
        hit my eldest with my big square hands
        and in the whole round world
the infinitely circular back–upon–itself universe
nothing was so square as our arena
the straight lines in which we talked and thought
        our parallelogrammic love
      the right–angles of our sharp opinions
the clear diagonals of our geometric ambitions.

       If one ambition gnawed me
it was to see her in her cask
to see the brass screws tighten
  like the squeeze of money
to see the trite equipment trundle her
         through the comme il faut curtains
to eternity.

As if eternity might serve time's servant					
(town–boy my wisdom was
         the stars aren't ours
and separate here
      cast up by causes blind as we to them	
unanchored to our origins
we're a breath, a breeze,
 a rustle in the midnight treetops
       heard an unsung second
       into the black silence of was once)
a transience to treasure
the quick flow and swing of life
       bred for the bike the brook
the book left for its time tight in the hallway case
         limbed for the lovely moment
    my brainlinks on fire with
being's simple interestingness
    dead to dead time
         time of the factory's metronome
the schoolroom's regulated hours
         ambition's heart–defeating dullness
       life sacrificed to life to come
         that never comes
         the ever–postponement of the moment's fullness
   for lucre–lure
   corseted petty despotism
success–sick worth–proving warmed–over Calvinism
        vicious creed of prim credulous mindsuburbs
    trimmed as neat as hedges
        electric shears of snobbery
         slicing each stray leaf
     long–handled snip of sniffiness
      nipping the tip of each lush sappy shaft of grass.

    A winter morning
          and each touched blade
    taut with painted frost
the skidding ball and the steaming breath
         and glow–cheeked panting into class
thirty unsure futures
Parisian ambassador or Dorman Smith dogsbody
         engineer of piston precision
or lifetime prison prowler
husbanded housewife whose wishes waft with her whites
          or world–wise money–whore whose innocence
 	          sinks as her bonuses soar.

      Two miles out of town
 		          fielded for the swooping summer swifts
my town–boy's happiness was here
winging ball–footed in a couldn't–care–less–who–wins
          sweet sensuousness of white–line bounded
        strict–ruled play
running mud–soled the rhododendroned woods
         walking green befriended miles
       idyll of dawdling idleness.


'courageous, exciting and challenging'

Adrian Mitchell

'a dark work which unflinchingly confronts the threat to our essential humanity posed by the society in which we live. Dent's language crackles with the rugged energy of the Anglo-Saxon scop, his unrhymed and largely unpunctuated verse heavily alliterative, dense and powerful... In our sound-bite culture, it is refreshing to read such a passionate, committed, yet controlled epic.'


'brave, unflinching and true'

Fred Voss

'the voice of the concerned man adrift a hostile world'

Jim Burns

'subtle intelligence in every line... every word counts'

John Murray

'risk-taking excitement, with a sense of verbal energy'

Alexis Lykiard