Night by the south bound
Platform at Elephant and castle,
Three white cranes stood.
Their lights triangulated on an opening,
Where one soulless
Concrete block, was
Slow replaced by another- much the same.
Workmen struck at steel, speechless,
Performing intricate acts,
A little dome of white hard
Hats and yellow
Under London’s swellings.
All their energies directed
To a single spot.
A white clot glow
Flowing through the city, and them –
The blowtorch blood cells
Repelling the decay.
While most groped in dream,
The orchestral drudge
Of industry entered without
Secession the early hour.
A firmament infinite
Above our zoetrope.
But not any one of them. Few
Working nights get
The gain or the girl;
The good amongst them laughed,
And had learned to walk slow
While they worked.
To the left the beak of the shard,
A spire of a funerary chapel,
To money and might, and the
Labours of immigrants.
A low lifting moon to the right
With a bellyful of Thames.
It’s reflection intrenched
Across two unseen river
Banks, and from there,
The greatest of cities looked
Wars will return with spring.
Behind the flower stall, the Syrian girl has
Sold lilies, all through the English December.
The lower deck empties under the iron balconies
And the end of my journey is welcome.
I furrow my pockets for a ring of keys, and
Join the crowd shuffling out past her station,
She stands in twilight, in sheep’s wool
And puffer jacket hood.
Far from her ancestors alters.
The new éñgłįšh, endure a cold
White wind, whole nations,
Manning the zero-hour barricades,
The open 24/7, twelve-hour shifts,
Minimum wage, bleach and office-hover in hand.
The new éñgłįšh,
Swelling in their bellies.
As with her, waiting
Out the winter for good custom.
She stands despite the chill, at
The stall where cut flowers
Close against the eastern wind,
She waits patiently for
Her own key into the dormant
Orchard, where once
The first fruit fell— to take a
Bite of this small cursed curve
At the end of the world.
Be careful when you die, Life wants you to live.
It aches like a mother at
Her dying child’s bedside.
To see you so tired.
Life is a journey to nowhere
Life lacking the power to effect
This world cannot convince
Though it will not stop trying,
With every new dawn,
Every puncture love makes
Into the illness, it will not give up on us
Even when it surely should.
When I dry up I reach for the ugly L.A. drunk,
I find some change there and on occasion
it’s enough, but when he’s not home
I go get the gin chased father. He lives in a
red-wood trunk in the Sierra, his voice is rough
as a winter sea, some-days he believes he’s
Christ—And some days he is.
Then there’s the librarian at the edge of the world,
where suns call up river, he whistles and I
listen to maybe the greatest fake of all.
I try find the farmer, who talks to the crows,
and roasted his wife in the oven.
He roams the halls, leading undergrads
Into blue labyrinths of Latin and Greek.
Or else I seek the old river-man,
his words stand without translation;
their age hold no end
and burrow away under barbed wire
Of twisted gold.
When I cannot bare it,
these misted mountains are known to me,
like a death scent,
and at here and at there, we go around
a water-hole, a bridge.
And between that arch predator and pray,
heal as one, hiding out
from the coming call
of unborn children — final demands,
and the past wondering
our dreams in ankle iron.
Sleep after that.
She likes to sleep after that.
she’ll sleep after
most things, but especially that.
Her silver choker chain
hangs round her neck;
it moves left and right, like the wheel of
a clock, in time with her heart.
Short wispy hairs
separate from her plait like parting rivers.
The pattern of the wall paper resembles
waves of a stage-set,
to imply shipwreck and drowning—
discoloration where the roof leaked,
nervous laughter, the tired legs.
Her skin is clear except for a few
healing spots, stress scars, each
morning make-up hides, releasing
last thing at night.
There are faces in her hair,
like in the bark of exotic trees,
there is safety in the tiny movement of
her limbs as she dreams, in the miles
on her face: in her constellation, in
her ears that need feeding, in her
Japanese cherry blossom; in her serpent tattoo,
always about to bite but never does.
Her lips separate, and a wall of white
teeth measure up to her whole;
In the dark void above her tongue,
there is a horizon of brown mountains, their
peaks are the ears of cats creeping
through long grasses. Some peaks
turn away, some peaks need warming,
some light fires, some need closing,
or catching, while others want climbing,
even though they have been
climbed many times before.
That, is something to do.
That, is what metals are to rust, it covers skin,
and takes time to make us ugly.
Her fears of living and dying, collide there,
where knowing has nothing
to do with anything.
That, will all go on, everywhere, in dim
lit rooms—That is certain, and it will grow like
keen weeds between the two rocks of work and sleep;
long after us, till the lights go out on love.
He was someone from
Their first life, their decades in the city,
A man of Smog and shoeshine,
Of attic flats, trench coats and steam.
They never spoke about his life,
Only that afternoon some twenty years back
How the October sun sat so hot and high
On his coffin.
They couldn’t forget it, my grandparents would
Talk about that day, something about the end of
A good friend’s life and the way
The summer lengthened out
Into autumn without condition or conclude.
‘We stood aside his grave,
Sweat through in Sunday best,
Blazer, knot and heel, didn’t we Mary!’
Many times, they repeated
To me this antidote, but not
When the summer was drawing down,
Only when at its height; And
Together they dreamed of how long it could last.
A beloved’s death was their tale of hope,
Against the coming winter.
Reaffirming that the warmth of the sun,
Can, occasionally be summoned
Right up to the last gasp of
Autumn and beyond.
Stillness is a
Of coffees, the
Of the bookies,
The call of crows
It waits in the lines jets
The sky, in the
Across uncut blue cloth.
It consuls, calms, binds up
The stabbed spirit, after
The injury of being
To those that don’t
The closed music box.
After the king Alfred—
The Magi leisure arcade lay
Closed for the winter. The
Dodgem’s were all tucked up,
Crazy golf, gone,
The dismantled amusements
Tarpaulined and Screwed Down by night,
Dark as a closed music box.
I noticed as I passed through, the
Outline of a figure standing to
One side, only just visible in the light
Of the public toilet.
A thin figure,
A woman, with not enough clothes
For winter. A spine that curved
Her body forward like a sickle. A lit
Smoke at the sharpened edge.
I saw her sunken cheeks, deep in the
Unwound toys heart and passed on.
I got my pint of milk at the near by
Garage. The teller had grey hair
And a speech impediment —
He wished me a happy Christmas
And I liked him instantly.
I returned to the road home.
Tracking back across
The empty fairground.
I looked for her, finding she’d moved
To the Centre now, although not
In movement. Her smoke
A still red iris, widening
With every breath-drawn-within.
A childlike creation, encased in
Broken glass, like the silence
Inside an empty old chapel,
Isolated on the ring-road,
A empty eyed silence,
Reminding occasional visitors
To mutter— by the father,
Son and the Holy Ghost.
She was it seemed
Waiting for work, in violent winds,
Where no daughter should be stood.
For out of the suburban December
Deserts, wise men will come.
Leaving their young subjects
Sleeping, to arrive
In veneration, in adoration.
Baring their offerings
In crumpled cash, head and hand.
Through her blood, her sacrifice,
God may stand among us once more,
After two thousand
Winters, returning into a den
Of wolves— let all prayer be
Through her tar blacken lungs,
Her name famed! Her saviour son.
Born into a night too wild
For stars to follow,
The music box remained
Unopened, but her first
Four bars of Tchaikovsky,
Repeated any way, again and again
‘That out of the deserts, the
Kings and killers come.’
Coming to her cup for pleasure,
Not love. Her, a wound mechanism,
A mirror too small
To use but big enough to see
Us all within,
A drawer lined with felt,
Too tiny to hold anything,
But the costume jewels of a child.
Ends happen suddenly, after a time
Without incident, like waves after
Many months crossing open sea
Strike against a desolate rock,
All the heavens gallows humour,
Driving into what they can not alter.
So few are ever seen; most approach
Headland, sand bank and icy shore,
By hours without eyes. In their
Beginning and their end as now,
Surrounded by others, each
As separate and as similar in conclusion
Crashing into the shale hard, like a broken
Wheel arch, or a tumour the size
Of an empresses’ diamond.
In the last fraction of a second
Each wave rears up, in defiance
And denial—for only it marked the
Path taken, or else knew what forces
Drove it there to a baron beach.
How greatly changed in the distance
Travelled it was or was not.
The final blow dissipates
Into other folds of moving water
After them, with them, in them—
Water will always break on stone
But the edge of the earth will change
Perhaps not as thought with
Drunken young dream,
But by one almost unnoticed
Grain at a time.
Some solace to know, so many
Bodies of water fell where they
Have fallen back into the deep.
We must believe we are the water
When in fact, we are the stone,
Captured in our cliffs, where
The fate of all dead oceans go.
The summer salts.
The trees move from the
North today. It’s been a long
While since the air came down
From the hills; the wind’s word
Is free of summer salts.
I think of her again, think if she
Has noted the change too and
Wonder how many men
She’s slept with now,
Since I kicked her out?
How grazed her knees maybe.
The bearded guy with thin arms,
Laughing hard outside the station.
The thirty something baldly,
With a lot of pride, chancing his luck.
At one a.m. on tinder.
She will make a fool
Of me by letting all the bar-stools
Into her rooms, where the butterflies
I brought her hang. Two months back,
She was mine forever,
They never could have caught her.
Now she’s free to fuck.
It’s my gift to her
And her middle finger to me.
I stood at the rear of the wear-house.
Half way down a coffee in a paper cup,
Watching the sun strike
Across the girders, like a boy with a stick
On the back of a mule.
Into my view came the H.G.V. shuddering
On the uneven road.
Down through a canyon of windowless walls
It slowed, contents inside clattering like cold teeth.
I saw one man alone in the cab where the road
Narrowed neatly to a dead-end.
He was closely watched by others:
Shirtless men, the bronzed scaffolders,
A couple of girls on their cigarette break.
And coming to a point where he could
Drive no further he had to turn his tanker
It seemed to all eyes unlikely,
A few heckled out a smile,
He began all the same,
Backing up by inches, then forward by feet,
Halting. He kept precise control, forward again,
Stopping in angles, using every
Mirror, in need of every lever.
Spinning the wheel
Wild like the ships steer
In the storm.
Touching on the break with the care of a
Craft-man’s blade, adjusting, conducting
A perfect sphere, a principle lead through
Razor wire, steel-pikes, and the x-ray glare
Of the for-man’s boys.
A ring master,
Head pressed against the beast’s breath.
Men like him, they vain the small hours,
They pass each other on empty highways,
While those who don’t have to be there sleep.
A list to check off—a hard corner to navigate,
A captain of an ugly craft, with a calloused
Knuckle and tail of exhaust fume.
His machine conducted an autopsy in air.
And in the closing act, the juggernaut,
Stopped, back to front now, readied
To unload. I watched
The driver note
His miles, throw
On a yellow vest, make a second
Record, and then swing the door
He brought down his heel,
To the first of three steel steps,
He unlocked the back bar.
Lowered a few polyethened
Pallets, and the engine ticked—
Hydronic legs lifted, and a little dust
Kicked up into a yard of sunlight.
The sound of the jack hammer across the rail way line resumes.
This morning the steeple of St Peter’s church breaks
The low line of terrace, like an exhaust pipe of the old Factory.
Upright out of slanted eves, industrial roofing, with
Winter worked cloud
Moving on it, testing its presence for depth; a place to
Ford, a point of weakness, as lips close around fleeing Breath.
I was baptised there. My grandparents were
Wed against its alter, and later they lay down
A centre Its isle by shoulder.
The priest will have performed this morning,
A wintery mass to a small house of widows.
I prefer to enter alone, at best
When the stalls are darkened, and the lead
Windows rain tapped, when stationary shadows of the
Street lights ripen upon the walls.
Then to steal the rich oxygen smell of cold stone,
And what light survives the journey along
The tall apse, settles on a dry well
Of alabaster— where my parents stood.
Marble and uncomfortable wooden pews.
Much the same now, as
When brought here as a bored boy
Then, the rows were filled with dying soldiers,
Grey long lucky faces, filled the isles
Through Dunkirk, Arnhem, the desert rats-
The forgotten eighth and the convoy men.
One by one Father Jerry has demobbed the lot.
Young families from out of town have
Claimed their solid brick terraces.
And while their baby boomer children eulogised,
Jerry dreamed of a twelve iron
And stout round at the devil’s dyke after the wake.
His ark sits in a subsiding sea.
The flood is over, and the animals have departed.
Returning to hunting one another as nature
And science intended. Possible
It remains a sanctuary still, but devoid of fear,
Getting married there is a bridle style and a superstitious Nod to a religious nan.
Getting christened there a
Ticket to attend a good catholic primary.
And me working a few roads north from where
I was raised, and my forefathers lie buried,
Not sure what to make of it all,
Not as unusual as you may think,
It’s Faux basilica outlines against
The morning sky, up-tight,
Bare and a little depressing to see.