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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prosetry

Another Time At Camden Lock

It’s a strange feeling, this. To be left alone in the middle of a crowd, to be abandoned by people that I’ve never met. The sun disappears and so do the strangers, and I sit cross-legged on the harsh concrete edge, lockside for the thousandth time, with my purple lipstick and my white wine eyes, wearing a garnet ring that was prised off the finger of a dead woman, with not even my faithful moon for company, and if I told you that I feel alive, it would be a lie, one greater than the lie I told you last night, the one that you will cling onto for the rest of your life, the one about loving you, the one about trusting you, the one promising not to die too soon.

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prosetry

This One Time At Camden Lock

I watch the man in the crumpled white shirt take a swig from his can of Stella
and remember how anything looks beautiful when set against a pink September sky.
I catch his eye through the smoke trails left behind by infinite Marlboro Lights
and then he picks up his guitar. I notice that there are flowers painted on its body,
which feels unfair as he will never see the flowers inked on mine.


I come here because I am unknown here.
Here, I can be anyone. I can be anyone I want.
Nobody here knows my name or my situation or my secrets.
I can talk to strangers here and know that they are strangers.
Here, nothing is expected of me, and all we have are first impressions.
I can hide what I like, reveal what I want.
I don’t have to say a word but I can also say them all.
Whatever I say or do here exists in its purest form.
Here, I have no history.
I am not known for my past transgressions, I am not known at all.
I can be whoever I want to be.
And here, I always choose to be me.
Because here, I can.


I laugh out loud at the groups
of young girls who look exactly the same from behind,
clones, pretty clones,
with their Instagram lies and bad blonde highlights,
all wearing the same beige trench coat,
drinking the same sugary cocktail,
taking a photo of themselves pretending to drink it,
no delete that one oh my god I look disgusting,
take another one!
no, I don’t like that one, delete.
One more.
Ergh, no!
One more.
One more, one fucking more,
I despair at the state of my generation.
I imagine what the girls look like
without their eyebrows drawn on.
Who are they trying to deceive?
I shake my head in disbelief.


I am overwhelmed at the tragic haircuts
these young white males are sporting –
another deluded bunch,
convincing themselves daily that they don’t look like utter twats.
I laugh again because they look ridiculous
and I don’t know why they’re here,
they don’t look old enough to drink,
and I wonder why their parents haven’t told them
that they look fucking ridiculous
and I remember the time I was leaving the house
and my mother told me that I looked like a prostitute
and she meant it as an insult
but I took it as a compliment
because that’s what it is nowadays.


The most grotesque PDA is taking place to the left of me.
The girl has a blade of grass in her hair.
I wonder if I’m the only person on this earth who knows that it’s there.
I think I am.
The guy keeps staring at me, leering.
He has a horrible laugh. It is false and it makes my skin crawl.
He bites the girl’s bare shoulder and keeps his eyes fixed on mine
the whole time and everything suddenly feels a lot colder.


This place is saturated with vague memories
of the midsummer evenings of our glory days
and we sit here pretending that it’s not all over.
Plastic sunglasses and plastic cups,
a dropped kebab and cigarette butts,
we all sit on the dirty concrete ground by the water
and watch the sun cringe away behind the buildings
embarrassed
not wanting to stick around
to witness our demise into debauchery.
The summer has gone but there is a lot of skin on show.
Heavy winter coats are being thrown
on over denim shorts and tiny vests,
and the more we drink the less
we notice the temperature drop
drop
drop
the degrees fall away
with our dignity
and self-respect
until there’s none left.


This is a tourist hotspot. This is why I can be unknown here.
I can spill my soul to a stranger, steal a wallet, fall in love, punch someone in the face: I know that I’ll never see them again and that any witnesses are gone too, so the damage is deleted. They’ll be gone tomorrow, or next week, or next month. What happens today never happened tomorrow.

Ah, Camden Lock: you never see the same face twice.
Unless you want to, of course.

So everyone around me is chatting away in various languages and I am writing and quietly singing along to the lyrics of the songs that the man with the guitar is playing.
We are all listening but not really.
We clap when we’re supposed to but this is just a man who’s singing for fun, he’s not supposed to be here, we didn’t pay to see him.
An old man who looks like a shit version of Iggy Pop dances around the guitar man, spilling his can of Scrumpy Jack’s on the floor.
He gets on down on his hands and knees and licks it up.


So, this guy is playing a free acoustic set
for the ignoring masses
and suddenly I feel bad for him,
like I’m the only one who’s listening
and appreciating his presence.
He plays songs that I know and love,
by Cash and Dylan.
Then he points at me and says,

‘Your boyfriend will probably come and beat me up for this, but I’ll take my chances – this song is for you.’

And then he starts singing Brown Eyed Girl
because of course, fucking of course,
because that’s the song that you would always sing to me.
And my throat gets really tight
and the tears begin to rally together on the edge of my eyeballs
and I don’t want to remember anything anymore.

I can’t look at the guitar man.
Or Shit Iggy Pop.
Or the PDA guy.
Or the chav youths with bad haircuts.
Or the girls pretending to drink their drinks.
I just stare into the canal and let myself zone out,
lighting a cigarette, ignoring my heartbeat,
wondering how many prostitutes are rotting away at the bottom of the lock,
attempting to conjure x-ray vision to look through the algae to see the bodies below,
trying to remember what the Camden Ripper’s real name is,
estimating how cold the water is,
mapping out the route of the canal in my head,
thinking that I’d rather drown than be burnt alive,
and then everyone starts clapping because the song has finished
and suddenly I’m no longer in the water
I’m dry and warm on the concrete
and I smile at the guitar man
and he winks at me
and then he starts playing American Pie
and I’m fine again,
I’m fine,
I’m fine,
I’m fine…

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