London Sweats

A fan-cooled idle chauffeur
slumps
in his employer’s slick black
double-parked Mercedes

with its engine left running
for working comfort
as it stokes London’s
smoke-free zone

Kensington High Street
puddles
with our fat drops of sweat

See my old man’s back of death-damp –
patches of sweated whisky and beer?

They push me to seek
short-lived shelter
alongside a hundred others
of every nation
in air-conditioned shops
with wide open doors

We all become refugees
with changes in weather

Serpentine Paths

Today wary Canadian geese
avoid paddling screams
from lido-blue rowing boats

finding cooler shade ashore
and rich landed pickings
among flat pressed patches

of lawns below London planes
where an hour’s respite
was snatched
by shade-hungry office bodies

A flaked Royal Parks bench
holds a mother and her boys –
silent with ice cream smiles

Here we share recovery positions
as both boys bum-shuffle
to their right – making an old man’s
space

I see what I will again see later –
strangers’ glances at unknowns
Now at her clothes – her veil

I built this park – in my working days
I planted most of her trees
and laid clean sand for her gallops

I should be able to name
more than London planes
as my known path takes me
to David in Fitzrovia

By Green Park

Day-glo tourists and hoary men –
stiff in their dour ashen suits –
not much has changed
beyond Victoria’s cast arches –

still a Queen and commoners
standoff and watch each other
from behind quick net curtains
and wrought iron barriers

as black cabs and red buses
match those travellers’ hopes
of a London of old curiosities –
with a high price tag to boot

Grenadiers play at army games
but all I see is Spike’s Neddy –
unlike Freddy – parading in heat
under a bear weight of headgear

to guard sweet sperm of kings
in their capital residencies –
where penguin-suited servants
respond to royal commands

whilst we all grovel like a Goon
under that ongoing burden
of keeping up appearances
in our less sumptuous palaces

And my return journey home
through ticket-licking turnstiles –
out beyond a thousand kisses –
is to where Sussex wears green
quite well

Hampstead Heath

We scurried across NW3
but not the low-laid Heath
of bricked-ish village-ness
of idealised introversion –
with loquacious City views

No – We took the buff support
of metre-high teak bars
before the flow of beer taps –
erect like those glass towers
stood in that visible rotten mile

We ripped at the greenery
of London’s low-rooted life
Scarred and weeping skin
from middle-class weekends of
pottering was not ours to wash off

This city is a rubbed scab
which if picked will bleed
from its red core and then fester
until a dry canker kills it off –
Once for all – as the Bible says

We slept with different women
of various sizes and weights
and woke to awkward breaths
and memory loss – some things
are best left on Hampstead Heath

Thursday – Overground to Euston

We travel sober through London Bridge – below
brick arches – on roads cowered by glassy heights –
Our cabbie blasts bent-to-smartphone bodies
back from near-hits on red-man crossings –

it seems that Londoners have now forgotten
how to see the threats beyond their implements –
We now live hand-to-eye – no longer hand-to-mouth –
no shape-to-spoken words – now embedded emojis spout –

We briefly find speed over the river crossing
and then turn left through the gold standard of cheats –
of fund managers – of clerics – of bankers and white Gods –
where every seat and bench in the low sun is arse-taken –

Thursday lunchtime is the dress rehearsal for Friday excess
behind St Paul’s – and in the eateries of Clerkenwell –
in the stained and new cafes – at exotic roadside pop-ups
and in smoke-free pubs until ten o’clock that night –
Our ride is time travel and a belching reminder that
we are in a handcart to hell – instead of the Underground


 

14th February 2019

Held by a red signal in south London –
in a balloon of wifi – of library silence –
this being a price-hiked compartment –
a restricted remnant of empire days
still served up by rail franchisees

as our ticket collector mis-quotes WS –
Juliet’s soft words as cuffed banter
towards serving staff –
parting is a sweetest sorrow
and he then regrets these modern times
of –
changes to language – to luv cld b not bad

Then a roll forward like a sneaking suitor –
an incline takes us without that rumble
from diesel complaints – this carriage sways
over switched points – under lopped trees –
those leaf-spill hazards

alongside a thousand-thousand
other prunings met behind drawn curtains –
those many lovers’ shop-cut flowers
presented in cellophane in south London
on this Saint Valentine’s Day


EDITED 170219

Early Morning at Abbey Mills, c.1928

In memory of Elwin Hawthorne

It must be an early summer
recollection
with the sun so high
on tin roof contours –
before the gauze and filter
of veiled vapours –
settled by less-puddled
watercolours –

The torn foreshore
is a bared cross-section
of London’s tidal visits –
sunken Roman traits –
that wallow of empires’
drowning of ways –
which were then re-built
for the Industrial Age

Mind The Gap

They’ve got a Dead Cupboard
in this Underground station –
hid from swilled passengers –
a Central route to Heaven

Behind those locked doors –
they hide the fresh body –
where the platform-removed
is stored temporarily

There the dropped dead
waits for the official –
to pronounce upon
this stiffened individual

The zipped-up fallen
is bagged – airtight –
he will not be required
to tap his ticket tonight