Bishopsgate. City suits in their clusters. Cold station. I move upwards hunting the light. High-rise feast. Upper Crust. Faded coaches. Internal fool. Exact scenery for the pureness of my recent loss. Nerve-end clarity. YO! Sushi. Puddled outside drinkers. Rawness of flavour. Separate the cities. Divide the versions. Funny cat in cheap card. Faces close. Parties wrapped around the candled towers. Plugged in. Mind drifts. Constance in London. Giving boroughs. Maintain perspective. Hunt down. Night bus beckons.
ancient rave beats squeak from the stereo. Time-warped Pete Tong reads out the listings of long-gone nights under the strobes. Autumn clings on. Rusty sun a puny aftershock. Feet swim through waxy black-green oak leaves. After Eight mint wrappers. White single-speed bike with lime tyres untidily placed on Tulse Hill estate railing, hung by single D-lock. I channel the lust. Atmosphere stays peppery. Three cantos of Dante. Italian copied into Google Translate - dubious sentences. Old tapes play out dead sound. The voice of an empty room. I cling on. Driver beeping prompts beeping Mexican wave. Icy sweats. Buses are never full. Bus stops always crowded. Fill the minutes with writing and worrying. Patterns of workmen in dim yellow look knackered it is nearly 4pm. HOUSEHOLD. Tacky font blue letters capitals. Somewhere maybe someone else thinks this. Silence for once is a reassuring note. Three schoolgirls appear from behind the car hold out small pink boxes and ask for money for breast cancer charity.
About to melt
This place crackles. Siren. Charred ruins Brockwell portable barbeque trays. It crackles. Shimmering ghost. I feel the outline. Solace in the hedgerow fridges. 30 gears click at lights. Am I about to melt? The echo of cackles. They are getting so aggressive, you know what I mean. We all need to cool down. Cool the atmosphere. Lightning blink. Burnt brows. Undercover pressure: a little rhythm leaks out. Flesh hotspot. “I crashed my car into a bridge.” Watch the trees burn. Ghost tension. Being tucked in. Smells from a city overcooked. Workers ride the cars pooled in sweat. Loved-up undercurrents. Storm sweat. Miles of streets with nothing to do.
Rows of wet red. Skol cans. Almost eternal construction. Carving out new routes. Old days imprint. I am scared here. I have never been here before. Flashing Belisha, hardly noticed. Banging of the steel drums. Shit-holes in stone. Reeking of mackerel. I am walking around in circles. Thinking about what I owned then. BOVRIL. The ghost of brands in faded white chalk on the end of the bricks. Chippy stench. But what about my home? Riverslippy tarmac. Allotment of bike wheels. Anger outside KFC. What do I recognise? People I don’t recognise. Pacing to other places. Gang of dealers. Popping out from the bus shelter.
From the moment I stepped back into it all brain-dead from the love, and thrilled. I shook. A newborn. Splash-back from a Burger King Coke. Hold onto the trail. Clarity all over. And to come back into the city (after so long), dislodging young thoughts. Reassess. Scramble the emotions. Meditation driver. Windscreen mud flurries. To come back. Open up a box of years, wear a new face, embrace the territory. Keep the river close.
Girlfriend retrieval message. Sim on the purple sky. I feel good. Blank beats nod. I press into the time. Territories nod, glued here. Deep-south lands. Speedy Noodle. Yellow-white circle. Clock tower. Almost a moon. And so I arrived back in the city after so long, wanting hugs.
Redface views tinkle. Gherkin. Endorphin grazed for a one-time perfume hug. Nestle emotion. Down the hill the black trousers flash. Like the tooth glint white. Gear click. Crystal Jewels. Crystal Palace. Shaaaaaard. Two identical radio masts: still my boroughs. Endless south, pollen jungle. Dubstep in reverse. Too hot for dubstep. Mind sprays back to the February church. Queues spiral, perfect quiet Feb. I was on holiday? Paris. In. The. Springtime. The queues went around the block. Feb buildinglights in the snow. "The coldest winter for 60 years." And there I was waiting for the sun. Quiet. A future note. St Matthew's Church. Road island underground. Culture dynamite! Gulp the Sprite down. Warm mush. Sticky lust. Word fighting - miss the cue. Raw vibes pricked. Eyes half. Memory-wrap the shell. These are my boroughs still.
Various terrains (excerpt)
I followed the path from the south of the river and then on to the north, one built from efforts and for the generations. An invisible line along the *various terrains*; near secret passageways or underground rivers, the lines connect our boroughs and our hearts and whatever in them. And it is a cryptic road where the signs are deliberately misleading so as to lead me down the treacherous and obtuse alleys, and where clarity dangles as headlights in the ever-thickening fog. These are sacred monuments/plains shielded by their own ghosts. Winter is beginning for them – I can tell now, most people I pass are adding layers (knitted jumpers and duffels) and the steam clouds out of the ventilation of the house rows. Waterloo Bridge is a Christmas postcard set by the shadowy figures lolloping across towards their suburb-carriages.
What I really need
is some peace - not
more sirens on tobacco-crisped streets
streets that get up your nose
right up into your nostrils, the
rotten black blanket fudge
spilling out into the bus lanes
all I think about
when all I really need
is some solace
and the sirens rebound
along endless concrete fields
with my path marked out
by street signs, cash machines,
itched by the spirit
circling above our local chapel
out of sight
from our Poundland adventures
from our Post Office scrambles
from our rambling ventures
and I play by the rules
the invisible rules blistering through
staccato drumrolls of moving trucks
now, nothing on my mind
except tunnel vision to get out
I know a mentor who says
roll with the punches
when they knock you down
but when they bring you back up
pull yourself back up
headfirst into the onrushing
Victoria Line Tube scrum
the spectre of our local chapel
a massive sodium lantern
guides me across
the solid concrete walkways
a rotting suburban maze
keep following peace
yes, the black soot will
there will be no interchange at Bank
this turmoil will pass
a voice chimes again
your mentor again
listen when he tells you
to keep chasing the pack
Oh my gosh. Time has bobsleighed its way through the smashends of sky-blue September and the first phase of button-mushroom grey always night. Days drag. The false light depresses. But this bloke keeps giving out solace. Giving out salvation. And he doesn’t even know it. ‘Have a good evening, enjoy your time, keep it real.’ We plough on, we try to have a good evening, we give a little smirk, we (probably) keep it real. People have died today. One under a train at Croydon. Another somewhere else. Took the only route they thought was best. I’m too numb to feel pain, although I know it’s there. Instead I hold a thought for the ones who’ll miss them, the ones who’ll be paralysed for more than a few hours at Clapham Junction or wherever. The thought remains, yet dulled, and obviously I get swept away by the tide of figures on the platform. Off once more, with a little bit of unconditional, effortless comfort. ‘Have a good Christmas, look after yourself, keep it real.’
There's no background soundtrack now
the disco mikes are muted the strobes strobe over black ground
spits of silence over empty places
a lone suit spins on his axis
eying up the vacant space
doffing his cap to thin air
bellowing a love song
to the imaginary cameras
trying by sheer force
to sing back into focus
all the days swept away
as I climb the white verge I glare into the sun
my Shimano 8-speed clicks down a few gears to bring back the pace
with my fingers splashed and sodden by the factor-25 grease
struggling to clutch the handlebars as the steaming Mondeo
then express bus shudders behind my increasingly jellying body
further up the hill I spy metallic dashes flame in the sunlight
it's the others, the peloton continues to spill quickly onwards -
we edge towards the Birling Gap where I need to
find some answers that I somehow lost in this endless race
and there's eyebreaking chalk blasted by the wind,
yet it's not getting in
even though these visions are the ones I dream of every minute all the time
I shake in horror and I'm scared of what I've felt
and what, in the yellow-blonde cleanfresh breezes,
I don't feel anymore
"I feel like I barely know you at all," she said.
The wind was getting in her eyes so sprinkles of Evian came out the sides.
We were familiar, strangely despite our distance.
I felt the same, yet I didn't fully realise and wasn't telling her.
I never wanted to lose that newness.
© Copyright 2017 John Maher