poem

a bear from Peru

they’ve closed the Bakerloo at Paddington;
and three hundred people have no place to go.
they’ve lost a bear, the announcements say,
but he’s here on the platform with us,
and look, we’ve cleared a space for him.
we look after this bear,
this bear with nowhere to go,
he’s one of us.

this bear from Peru, 
we’ll look after him,
cause he’s furry,
cause he’s cuddly,
cause he munches squashed sandwiches from under his hat –
and a bear on the tube,
that’s cool right?
like when a dog gets on your carriage
and everyone’s suddenly fawning,
and human again,
and we look at them,
and we look after them.

so why won’t we look after three hundred people
who’ve crossed seas in rickety boats,
and jumped trains to survive,
like kids here do for fun.
why then do we close down stations,
and put up walls,
and keep them in boxes,
and give them nowhere to go?
because they’re not bears,
but if you chain them up
and make them dance,
they’ll act like bears soon enough
and soon enough the fingers point
and say: ‘see?
we were right to lock them up’
but they too step aside for bears,
they too fawn over puppies on trains,
they too are humans,
like all of us:
we’re the humans who take care of bears
on the closed platforms of Paddington station. 

farewells

it's fitting now that rain falls
in puddles and buckets
and torrents and floods;
flowing and overflowing,
soaking me until I feel cold
and sad and sick of spirit.

cause by now,
I've got so used to people leaving,
that I can't shed tears
or feel anything
bar a flood of nothing:
another number,
a statistic,
that I'm happy for -
or supposed to be happy for,
cause each time they leave
they take a little part of me:
a section of soul that for a second was theirs,
a portion carved of drunken nights
and long stories under bridges
and laughter on silent streets
that made things better,
that made big city life tolerable,
and when they leave,
those nights leave with them
puffed up in a whiff of smoke
leaving only a memory
and a smile of their passing
while their train rattles on
through the night.

in transit

faces raised to screens
eyes glazed at a hundred ways to leave,
and everywhere voices
with no bodies
and no souls.

and delays and layovers
that just go to show
that the waiting game has no rules
and not even really any players -
just waiters,
the bored, sick of their job ones,
who'll spit in your food
just to pass the time.

o tainted dove

o tainted dove
mere twin to winged vermin
destined to cast your doleful eye
upon all that is refused
and fallen.

no crutch for club foot,
nor shower for ruffled plume, 
you languish, wretched among beasts.

'lo as you swoop
wings held back, tiny head held high
a minute phoenix rises from sad dirt
glowing all shades of turquoise
and king of the air
for an instant –
for an instant
too short
o tainted dove,
too short by far! 
as club foot hits breadcrumb soil
you languish, wretched among beasts.

I've bled and I can settle
for the beast in me is quelled
my inkwell does run dry
and all my stories are dispelled
no words do populate my mind
nor stains my hands do blemish
no midnight candles shall I burn
no empty stretch I'll relish
I'll go to bed at night content
at never having penned
I'll turn my hand to stitching cloth,
relationships I'll mend.
will I then hear the blackbird's song
or see the night's last star?
Or cast blinkered eye upon the world,
and not see how things are?
Perchance I fight back from the gloom,
to praise the Earth once more,
but only onwards will reveal
what beauty lies in store.
now either way you look at this
your views, keep them to you,
for nothing, really, can quell my urge
to put in words what's true. 
so forever I'm a writer
my gift is cursed as such
but suits in empty soulless blocks
don't appeal to me that much.
Now let me pick the blankest page
to sully with my words
watch final stars on morning glow
and hear again songbirds.


I pondered, late last night, whether the book I'm currently working on would be my last. What if, after I'd scratched that itch, I wanted something else? So I wrote this and was reassured.

On the Bakerloo

today
i smelled the Underground
smell as it used to smell
aged five
sooty and inviting
exciting
the way boarding a train should smell
when the domes of St Paul’s towered high
over the city
and the Shard was but
a jagged figment of thought
a rush of pigment on an artist’s impression
an altogether fresher
less jaded by the nine-to-five
eager to arrive
desperate to strive
London.

it got me thinking:
as blurs form like smog
not one day on and one day off
but gradual
lying and mystifying
and pulling all I know into question marks:
was I five, or was I five times that?
and where then lies the line
of cruel historian’s pen
between my London of today
and that of then?

but one smell told me:
the Underground marked that boundary
sooty and inviting,
exciting. 

the politics of language

I know all the words to this city
but none of the actions to go with them.

Will different words
take me different places?
Do I greet in English
and give away my tourism?
Or stray into hometown Dutch,
and let my accent do the same?
Or pick up French,
that rusty fork of mine,
and prod people with that?
In three languages
I'm still lost for words.

Instead,
I speak the language of everyone I could ever wish to speak to,
and order a beer.