Poetry: 'Ingredients, Properties & Uses of Concrete'
Written by Simon Maddrell
after Caleb Femi
i) London Concrete (1)
Ingredients: Portland cement (2), fine & coarse aggregates, water & air.
Properties: The second most widely-used substance on earth after water (3).
The most destructive material on earth (after hate).
The source of 8% of the world’s negative emissions on Twitter (4).
The most deconstructed substance on earth (after an Eton mess).
I do not wish to pretend I am good –– but I am like many (5).
Uses (6): To see a world in mirrored skyscrapers (7), badly-clad blocks (8) and everywhere we live & everywhen we work. Where infinity holds a loaded die in the palm of its nothing, an eternity of abstract hope (9).
ii) Kenya Concrete
Ingredients: Ordinary cement (10), river sand (11), river water (12), river rocks & stones (13).
Properties (14): Small homes, small schools, small sand dams (15) & small bridges.
Uses (16): To change a world with a grain of sand, plant a tree (17) and a wildflower (18)
Hold sukuma wiki (19) in the palm of your hand and bring clean water within an hour (20).
iii) Concrete Feetnotes
1 Concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush & shrub on the planet.
2 Ingredients: Lime, silica, alumina, magnesia, gypsum, clinker & steel slag.
3 If the cement industry was a country, it’d be the world’s third largest carbon dioxide emitter.
4 This is a false news –– cement is actually responsible for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
5 Letter sent to Mr Montgomery Hyde MP for Belfast North prior to the parliamentary debate on the Wolfenden Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences & Prostitution, 1958.
6 & 16 after William Blake, ‘Auguries of Innocence’.
7 Who we are is reflected in what we build.
8 Summerland Disaster (Isle of Man, 1973), Grenfell Tower Fire (London, 2017) plus eight UK blocks that burned down between 1973 and 2017.
9 Heidelberg plans the world’s first carbon neutral cement plant by 2030.
10 Manufactured in Athi River and Mombasa, Kenya under the brand names: Blue Triangle, Bamburi, Nyumba, Simba, Rhino & Savannah; mainly owned by French company Lafarge.
11 Collected mainly by women farmers.
12 Collected mainly by women farmers, in few the weeks water remains there after the rains.
13 Collected mainly by women farmers, broken mostly by men.
14 Concrete structures absorb 30% of the CO2 emissions created from its cement content.
15 Steel-reinforced concrete walls in seasonal riverbeds, which fill with sand and 25-40% filtered-clean water.
17 Sand dams enable community tree nurseries that germinate & propagate indigenous species during drought periods providing fruit, fodder, medicines and building materials.
18 40% of the UK-bought cut roses are air-freighted in refrigerated containers from Kenya, via Amsterdam.
19 Kiswahili, literally means “push the week” used by low-waged city-dwellers as slang for kale (collard greens). Kale is the most common vegetable grown in community nurseries next to sand dams, although one community grows green beans that are air-freighted to the UK to feed out-of-season consumers.
20 Sand dams hold up to 40M litres water, providing year-round clean water supply collected <1 hour.
About the Author
Simon Maddrell is a queer Manx poet, editor and educator living in Brighton & Hove. Simon is published in numerous anthologies and publications including AMBIT, Butcher’s Dog, The Moth, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Stand, Under the Radar.
Simon currently has four pamphlets available:
2020 –– Throatbone, UnCollected Press; Queerfella, which jointly-won The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition.
2023 –– Isle of Sin, Polari Press; The Whole Island, Valley Press.
You can keep up-to-date with Simon's work through various social media channels:
@simonmaddrell on Facebook / Instagram / Threads
Facebook Page: @SimonMaddrellPoetry