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Clifton and the Enslavement Trails

Walking the streets of Clifton,

You can see the consequences

Of enslavement compensation,

And you can see the triangles of trade

Behind the balconied facades -

If you know what you’re looking for,

And if you’re armed with prior knowledge;

Otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue.


There are plenty of plaques on Clifton's walls,

Informing us about the great and the good,

But as to plaques about the sordid source

Of so much of this suburb’s leisured wealth,

Not a dicky bird.


And you can understand that.


If you unwittingly move into a flat

In a building once occupied

By someone associated

With the triangular trade

And enslavement compensation,

You might feel uncomfortable

And in the public eye,

If a plaque goes up to that effect.


People staring in as though you are complicit.


But surely there ought to be something

In the streets to contextualise

The links between Clifton’s grandeur

And the triangular trade?


The much-hallowed mantra

Of Retain and Explain

Surely indicates a need to explain,

And educate passers-by?


For walking the streets of Clifton,

You can see the consequences

Of enslavement compensation,

And you can see the triangles of trade

Behind the balconied facades.

If you know what you’re looking for,

And if you’re armed with prior knowledge;

Otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue.


You can see the fruits of enslavement

In salubrious, classical Clifton:

Grand houses and mansions

All ship-shape and Bristol fashion:

The honey stone Age of Enlightenment;

Such elegant and expensive architecture,

Such pleasing proportion and symmetry:

The fruits of the Age of Reason –

And of the Age of Enslavement

And triangles of shame.


You can see the fruits of enslavement

In salubrious, classical Clifton:

But only if you know what you’re looking for,

And if you’re armed with prior knowledge;

Otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue.




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