So many of us
are sliding down the ridge
of our own shadows,
hands held out for sun
on creased skin
silked up from bottles.
We’re walking on belly pain
and nylon knees,
feeling the bite of cheap shoes,
wondering just what
keeps us trudging, flat-footed
over the stubborn ground.
Beneath our gaudy fashion
and false leathers,
what gets us knotted
is seeping through our fingers,
smearing a fog
across touch screens.
We’ve got it all scheduled
without an outcome;
sunken comfortably down
in the spent springs of suburbia
like coins fed between
the lips of a slot machine
for a random selection
and a long empty silence.
The late sun slants out across London,
settling in the suburbs with its long face.
Aircraft, released like deep sighs,
slice through scattered clouds and rise
above traffic sucking on sticky liquorice.
We walk through higher degrees, sleeveless,
parsing the cracks in lazy avenues,
lined with ornamental cherry trees
and strung with wires, then enter dusk
homing in on the glow of the sleepless city.
Out here we live in cul-de-sacs and crescents,
shadow mapped beneath the reservoir banks,
in our pre-war semis pickled in paint.
Short-circuited into housing estates, we cut out
with the street lamps at eleven o’clock on the dot.
The lone starling pecks along the roof tiles
gathering seeds in his beak.
He flies up to the bare tree and settles
on a branch, nudging close to a second starling.
Catching her eye, he lets his keys
loose on the breeze: Look at this! Look at this!
His feathered seeds twirl gracefully down,
unlocking their slender pirouettes.
She dips from her perch with a quickness;
cuts elegantly through the falling confetti.
Is she upstaging his courtship display
or pretending she’s not so easily impressed?
She alights on the tiles and pecks at seeds,
turns back to check he is watching.
The procession of white vehicles
pacing the coast of a mirage
is a life-line -
You focus on its continuity;
the chain of cars and lorries,
an elongated breath
of stretch limousines
traversing the eye.
All in white
this could be a wedding party
pulsing the grey blade of a shore
in the earth’s curve
but regarding this from the very edge
it reminds you of numbers
flickering their constant watch
across a monitor.
You wonder which country
could worship sheet whiteness
beneath the lamp of its sun.
If I told you
there was no such country,
that this was just the effect
breaking on the cross-tide,
you would choose to believe
I was wrong.
On this Anglian shore,
entranced by the infinite cord
of angelic traffic
pulsing through the distance,
your feet are rising
above the land.
Staggering in to missed calls
and crooked keyholes,
you fold inside
like an escalator going under,
cursing lavender sellers
and late connections.
Stringing your steps together
into the diagram of a waltz
you bump along the hall
with a slope-shouldered
lack of shame, tripping
switches and dropping lids.
The moving stairs
judder back up
with their dark side tilting
towards the light
and you, stuck like gum
to the underside,
churning towards morning.