poetry, prosetry

A Sorry State Of Affairs

Good morning, London.
If you’re reading this, congratulations!
You’ve lived to see another Friday.
Good morning, London.
If you’re reading this, commiserations.
You’ve lived through 1000 days of Brexit.
Another day, another death by blade,
another hashtag, another have-a-go-hero.
Atrocities peppered with royal babies,
terror on the back burner
to make way for another celebrity suici—
BREAKING NEWS
Reality TV Stars are Humans with Feelings!
(You say ‘stars’, I say ‘participants.’)
Anniversaries and gofundmes,
Westminster and Manchester,
Dunblane and Hillsborough,
Grenfell and 7/7,
stranger murder and internet danger,
lest we forget:
lest we forget that these events are out of our control,
we can only sit back and watch the horror unfold
from the comfort of our council homes
on our fancy new smartphones.
Victims getting younger,
prisons getting softer,
vigilantes getting punished for doing God’s work,
remember when this little island had so much to offer?
Oh my goodness, a D-list celeb has gained weight
“Look at the state of it!”
Religion preaches kindness,
ignorance breeds hatred.
Who’s Afraid Of ISIS State?
Sorry, we’re too busy to deal with
our own homegrown caliphate, sorry,
I’ve got to send Tesco a passive-aggressive tweet
about the absence of tomato in my BLT,
and come up with a witty response to theirs –
sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry. Sorry.
Ah, our glorious nation,
built on a solid foundation
of queuing and apologising,
of sarcasm and profligation.
You’re blind, you have no legs, and you have 3 months to live?
Sorry, you’re not eligible for the full rate of disability benefit.
But the bloke down the road who is a roofer on the side
and can run up and down stairs?
GIVE HIM ALL THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT!
A sorry state of affairs.
Darling, #woke and #Brexit cannot co-exist:
the two are mutually exclusive.
But London’s burning,
and you can live stream all of it!!!
The newspapers are an endless torrent
of stories of hatching, matching and dispatching,
vile comments, casual racism and mansplaining.
Make sure you Instagram your #prayers
and Tweet your reaction,
live, as it happens
but, other than that,
do NOT take any viable action,
do NOT try to make a change,
do NOT get involved,
just collect your pennies from your plugs
and remember that you are #blessed.
Make sure EVERYBODY knows how much you care.
So I’ll see you for the revolution at dawn?
No, of course not. You wouldn’t dare.
The murder count rises
faster than the cost of cigarettes.
15p added on the price of a pint?
Oi, Hammond, you wankstain, you want a fucking fight?
(Anybody else still wondering how Tony Blair sleeps at night?)
How about we try to Make Britain Great Again?
Because we are actually were Great, once upon a time.
Silver linings, swings and roundabouts,
county lines and Leavers doubts,
4 hour wait for an ambulance,
and votes of No Confidence,
but when times get tough
we can all sigh with relief and say,
“At least we don’t have Trump!
Put the kettle on, love,
we could all do with a cup.”
This isn’t the Wild West.
This is a test.
And we are failing.

Tune in next week to find out
how many people are arrested for no reason at tomorrow’s march,
which members of Pizza Club ordered which toppings,
what Tommy Robinson’s been up to,
which actor has been denied planning permission,
and who has been a very naughty boy!
Don’t forget to like and subscribe! @me!
@mememememeit’sallaboutme
Abusive comments will be [screen-shotted
to be discussed in Daily Mail Online
before being] deleted because
WE DON’T TOLERATE TROLLING.
Stay woke, stay blessed and,
as always, stay safe.

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prosetry

Pablo 2.0

For context, read ‘Pablo’ here.

*

I went to McDonalds at Waterloo to buy a cup of Fanta to pour my vodka into. As I was doing so, an announcement sounded over the tannoy:

Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY.

A modern air-raid siren began wailing, echoing through the suddenly silent station. Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at each other, unsure what to do. Whispers of “terror attack” rolled through the concourse first in rivulets, then intensifying in power, tsunami-like, as it gathered more fear, more panic. Most people up and left, scrambling for the nearest exit, pushing each other out of the way. The staff behind the counter slowly disappeared into back-rooms. The guy next to me took his headphones off and watched me unscrew the vodka bottle while listening to the announcement:

Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY

and then:

OFFICER *crackling noises* DOWN.

The guy looked up at me and asked, “Is this for real?” “Sounds like it, but who knows,” I replied, mixing my drink with a straw, half-anticipating the sound of gunshots. “Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough, init,” he said, biting into his hamburger and putting his headphones back on. Then the tannoy shouted:

REPEAT, OFFICER SANDS, STAND DOWN.

I shrugged at the guy and he laughed, shoving fries into his mouth.

Outside, Southwark smelled of burnt rubber and sour milk. It turned my stomach.

*

I’d last seen her fourteen months ago. In fact, that was the first and only time I’d met her. I saw her every day in the postcard tacked to my mirror, but I hadn’t expected to see her in the flesh ever again. I was frightened of her because she looked like me and I am frightened of myself. I had assumed that she’d have been moved on, moved to a different city, to be pored over by fresh, foreign eyes. I was shocked when I entered the room and she was there, in the corner, right where I’d left her.

She was bigger than I remembered, which was a pleasant surprise. I watched the people looking at her. Well, they weren’t really looking at her, they were taking photos of her on their smartphones, looking at a version of her on a 5 x 3in illuminated screen. Nobody actually looked at her, even though I could hear her screaming, “LOOK AT ME! FUCKING LOOK AT ME!” from behind the glass. I was scared to get close because I had a feeling that she’d reach out and grab me and keep me and refuse to let me go. But as soon as I was in front of her, I found myself a nose away from her nose. So close that I could see a rogue hair from Picasso’s paintbrush stuck in the oil.

At one point, she and I were the only true living things in the room. Dali et al were dying around us, fading into insignificance before disappearing from the walls entirely. I found myself smiling because we share a secret. She knows what I know. I felt the presence of a security guard hovering on the periphery. I stepped away from her, turned my back and began to walk away. Dali had returned to the opposite wall. I thought, and genuinely believed, for some reason, that she was no longer on the wall behind me. I quickly turned around, expecting there to be a blank space where she once had lived. I was relieved that she was still there. I felt so bad for turning my back on her, for abandoning her. She looked to be in more pain than she was before. I felt that I’d betrayed her. I went back to her and stood close.

Lost in our shared grief, my focus blurred and I found myself looking instead at my own reflection in her glass cover. I was struck by how unwell I looked. My eyes, usually kind, soft, approachable, were glazed and full of terror, like a rabid fox. I looked wild. “Help,” I whispered, reverting my gaze from my own eyes to hers. I didn’t realise I was crying until a teenaged boy in a group of Spanish schoolchildren pointed at me and said, “Look! The Weeping Woman!” and they all laughed, then started taking selfies with the only other weeping woman in the room, the one on the wall in the corner, trapped behind glass.

*

Back at Waterloo, it was business as usual. A false alarm, it seemed. Exhausted, I got on the Tube and promptly put my sunglasses on despite it being late in the evening. Eyes are too powerful. I didn’t want to look at anyone’s eyes or have anyone see mine. I’d seen enough eyes for one day. Suddenly, an announcement crackled over the system:

Ladies and gentlemen, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment due to a person on the track. I repeat, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment because there is currently a person on the track. The next station will be Charing Cross, next station Charing Cross. Mind the doors.

A woman down the carriage tutted too loudly, and the drunk man opposite me slurred, “Fuckin’ people on tracks, man, f’fer’fucksake.” I closed my eyes and filed the day away with all the others in my brain, in the folder marked: Another Sad and Strange Saturday Night in the Greatest City in the World.

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poetry, prosetry

Remember, Remember

Fireworks over Ally Pally
A child cries, afraid of the noise
We flock to these annual events
Paying £8 for the privilege
Unconsciously celebrating an evil scheme
Finding entertainment in the destruction
Romance in the smell of gunpowder
Joy in the spit of crackling flames
Beauty in the violence in the sky.
Adding to the mix a stabbing, some muggings
A bottle of acid in a stranger’s face.
No such thing as ‘nice’ anymore.
Much to complain about:
Too muddy, too loud, no parking, long queues, overpriced beer.
We feel like we have to ruin everything.
Fun for all the fucked-up family.
“This city has gone to shit,”
“Yes, and we did that to ourselves,”
“All by ourselves!”
Bombs into Aleppo
A child cries, afraid of the noise
Or perhaps the child does not cry at all
So used to the shelling, the sound of terror
That they barely flinch
Actions of a different kind of rebel than ours
Imposed upon them, without having asked
Only ever daring to breathe when the sky was empty
When there was prolonged silence
When their house still stood
When family and friends had pulses
Knowing that celebration is pointless
Because there will soon be a repeat
Knowing that it’s out of their hands
They didn’t ask for this
None of them did
And still they harboured hope in their hearts
And dreamt of living somewhere safe like we do.
(Or should I say, like we once did
Before kids starting killing kids?)

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poetry

Houseboat

Lazing riverside
Summer’s night
Splintered tables
Sticky thighs
Discarded suit jackets
Loosened ties
Abandoned shoes
Delirious eyes
Plastic jugs of booze
Dehydration maximised

Too much cider, too much wine
Collapsing on the Circle line
Starving grass beneath your feet
Grown tired of the city heat
Of fake Ray-Ban glasses
Of skin that peels off in sheets
Of volcanic buses
Of angry #heatwave tweets

I sit here, quietly,
Upon my molten seat
Catching drops of another nosebleed
Stirring my 2 litres of Pimms
Realising that it’s only ever
On days like this
Through the combination of having had
Too much to drink and enough of the heat
That I allow myself to dwell:
On where and who we could be
That I allow myself to imagine:
My God, how happy we’d be
That I allow myself to think:
If only we’d bought that fucking houseboat.

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poetry

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (3 + 3.5)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (1)

All Roads Lead To Seven Sisters (2)

(3)

One day when I walk the Seven Sisters Road
alone, I will see everyone
that I have ever known, and everyone that I
will ever meet in my various little lives
they’ll all combine and line
the street, here, where inertia
grows on trees, where a boy got killed
over a just-shy gram of coke, where the inhabitants
are broke but the system is broker, where I saw my
third dead body in the back of a Vauxhall Nova,
where Papa carried me to the football on his
denim-clad shoulders, my story will be laid out clear
for me here, for this, this is home
and it will always be
but I’ve got a long way to go
to get to where I’m meant to be.

(3.5)

Whenever I went down there
You would always say,
“Try not to get stabbed!”
It had always been a very real possibility
But now it’s no longer funny.

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life

Green Lanes

​I was standing on Green Lanes when it began to rain. It always rains on Green Lanes apart from when it doesn’t. Once I walked 6 miles of it because I lost my bus pass and that was during a heatwave. I remember it because the added heat and smoke from the bakeries and kebab houses and the Saturday afternoon crowd made the trek almost unbearable to the point where I wanted to cry but I had no tears to shed because I was so dehydrated, and never will I ever be so happy to see the Palmers Green triangle as I was when I finally made it home on that day. When I met my friend she said I smelled like I’ve been charcoal grilled. I felt like I had been charcoal grilled. 

Anyway, this time it was raining. Big, heavy raindrops, the ones that almost hurt when they hit your skin. I was early for the meeting with my solicitor so I loitered about, opting to murder my finite minutes outside a Turkish bakery a few doors down from his office. Inside the bakery I could see a group of women making baklava and some men congregating near the counter, drinking tea. I could hear the men’s animated debate and the subdued chatter of the women through the open door though I did not understand a word.

I lit a cigarette, holding it within my cupped hand in such a way as to shield it from the rain, and watched the women work. It was mesmerising, truly, seeing them expertly arrange layers upon layers of filo pastry, the filo so thin it was almost transparent, delicate and satisfying in one perfect sheet like when you peel off sunburnt skin, lifting up a huge sheet of it with such care but seemingly such little thought, a technique honed through the decades, passed down through generations. They were wielding rolling pins that were probably longer than the women were tall, never tearing the pastry, never once coughing or spluttering from inhaling the continuous cloud of starch powder that engulfed them, toned arms made strong from years of lifting vats of honey hidden under old cotton dresses, the patterns and colours of their aprons faded with age but their hair as white as sugar and their eyes as green as the pistachios that they crush in the giant pestle and mortar. Traditional, routine, precise, step-by-step, live art.

The women didn’t notice me but the men had their eyes all over me and they beckoned me in. I shook my head and held up my cigarette to say “I can’t come in right now even if I wanted to.” They insisted, but again I shook my head. The women glared at me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, and certain that they were bitching about me in Turkish. The men are probably their husbands. Then, just as I was feeling unsafe, someone came up behind me and grabbed me, digging their fingers in my ribs with an almighty grip. Without a thought I twisted my upper body around and elbowed the person in the face. He immediately let go of me and his hands rushed to his face. He was doubled over and blood dripped onto the wet concrete.

Fucking hell!!” he said, into his hands. “Why’d you do that?!” He stood up and took his bloody hands away from his face. “Oh my God, GEORGE! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was you, you scared me, I thought you were a robber or a pervert or something!” “No, it’s just me. Fucking hell, you’ve broken my fucking nose!” “No I haven’t, come on, let’s have a look at it,” I said, searching for a tampon in my handbag. “It’s not proper broken. You’re still handsome, don’t worry,” I promised, as I unwrapped the tampon and shoved it up his nose. “Fucking hell, I only came over to say hello and invite you out to this thing tonight!” he winced. “Oh, Georgie, I’m really sorry, let me kiss it better,” I said, before I kissed his nose and he laughed. “You’re a nutter, you are,” he said as he wiped his bloody hands on his jeans.

We went into the bakery, George cleaned up and we had tea and baklava. One of the men in there paid for me. George said, “If you weren’t so pretty you wouldn’t get away with half the shit you do.” I concurred that that is probably, sadly true. My solicitor called to say he was ready for me, so we hugged goodbye and arranged to meet at Frank’s in Peckham at 10 that night. I promised to buy him a drink to say “sorry about the whole elbow in the face thing” and he promised that we would catch up properly later on and that he had some exciting news.

He never turned up at Frank’s that night. Nobody had heard from him. His phone was dead when we tried to reach him, and it’s still dead 4 years later. I ring it from time to time, just in case it might be switched on.

Where did you go, Gorgeous George? You just disappeared. No social media clues, no sightings, no ideas. The grapevine mentioned you running away to Thailand but then it also mentioned you in prison, and it was even suggested that you were living under witness protection and your true identity had been compromised. I don’t think you topped yourself. I just don’t know where you are. No one does. I wonder if I was the last person to see you: I hope I was, so that you didn’t meet a fate worse than a bloody nose and free baklava. And I will always look for you on Green Lanes, especially when it rains.

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prosetry

Scream Queen

In London no one can hear you scream.

You can scream all you like, princess.

Scream up Fleet Street, scream down Holloway Road, scream all over Clapham Common, scream up at Nelson’s face, scream along Blackfriars Bridge, scream out from the top of Primrose Hill until your throat bleeds.

By the time you’ve found somebody who’s ready to listen, you’ll have run out of scream.

I always thought that my screams were being ignored.

Now I know that, really, everyone in this city is so deafened by their own screams that they can’t possibly hear mine. Just like I didn’t hear yours.

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