Snickets

Round that old, old town
Looped by green waters
Wooded thick as an old fur coat
Of old trees
Round the castle and cathedral
Man’s settlement grew unplanned
Stone on stone, brick on brick
Generation on generation
Each building over the next
Following twists, knicks, bluffs
Undulations of rock and soil
Sinuous sinews of habitation
A ground plan like veins
Shadowed alleyways; steps worn
By countless hobnails
Stilettos and segs,
Home to bill stickers
And teenage tags, urban art.
We argued that weekend
Whether these snickets were just that –
Snicking away into dark depths
Or were they ginnels up here –
Narrower somehow, longer perhaps
Going deeper; ‘ginneling’ lower?
I’ve heard them called ‘jintys’ or somesuch
And they could be; playful, avoiding highways
Cutting their own path, jauntily, ‘jintlely’
Elsewhere, ‘ten-foots’ – not sure if
It’s ten foot wide
Or ten foot deep
But it was all in vain
For these snickets aren’t snickets
These ginnels not ginnels
They’re not ten foot neither, nor that jinty
Round these parts, they’re vennels
He said, the bearded local
As he squeezed the air
From the Northumbrian Pipes.
With such certainty, it settled it.
Nice snickets, all the same.

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