Through Brixton and Other Poems
Sackclothed prophets roaring
‘Sodom and Gomorrah,
Sodom and Gomorrah’
chase a girl in a short white nearly
who’s disagreed. She holds
her handbag like a buckler, thinks one prophet’s
going to run her over
- thighs like chariot wheels.
He listens to the air: ‘What’s this?
What’s this I’m hearing?
Sodomgomorrah!’ She laughs.
He smiles: the Phantom of the Opera, teeth
like tusks. A tall
black handsome preacher, Bible-
batoned, quickly shakes
the prophet’s hand
and walks away. An old
white tramp picks menus from a bin:
‘What’s this I’m hearing?
one pound twenty, ham
one seventy-five, pork sausage
the pavement outside KFC Koreans
dance in smocks. One beams
in my direction: ‘Jesus
died for you’. I dive but someone else gets caught,
looks guilty under
radar eyes. Another’s
singing solo, face alive
above his flannel suit,
dark glasses lapping sky.
The passengers charge the steps
like Spartacus’s men, and Robbie’s there
to spur them on. The station shouts
from all its mouths
to make him leave,
but someone’s got to watch the enemy.
They, outside, control the high street,
tapping in their cars. They never think
he sees them when he hides flat up
beside the paper stand.
Sometimes, though, he roars and waves
the Tin of Liberty, and then they know:
he speaks the truth. He tells them:
‘Don’t despair’, and from his milk crate
with his blanket round his chest
he says it all, like Lenin,
and the flower-sellers hand him bouquets
and a chorus line of tube card beggars
dances just for him.
Out of the Window
Wish it was enough for me to say:
‘I don’t know what it is’ –
more a desire, the heart’s
fluctuation, than a thing. Yet:
patchwork sky, pigeons skittering,
the grass, the trees
dipping each leaf individually,
which is, fantastically,
different in its green
from every other,
and each bud, twig, attentively,
flags of assent, agreement,
messages in languages
I can’t possibly understand,
yet I do: green, white,
blue. The path
of one swallow streaks
across the sky
to rip open minds.
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