It is most like freedom;
skipping the brook,
slipping on acorns and stalling in flight.
Our escape on a wet day
is picking us up.
Our rocky way is lined with maple trees,
their sun-trapped leaves
smoothing the day to a bright canvas.
Where we cross the border,
we cut ourselves off from the battle behind us,
delay the struggle up ahead.
Our eyes shine in the clearing,
sipping the sky
like a faithful wine on a fine evening.
We could settle for this
but the season persists with change.
So we soar to a height
where the wind’s sorrow
swallows our words
and the land moves swiftly beneath us.
And when all that is left of our rising
are those few minutes
no longer ours to keep,
we raise our hands and set them free.
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 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 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.
Inside Suburban Lines
Beyond the background wheeze of A-roads,
phlegm-thick, sky-drained & flooded,
a spit of litter dittoed up their ragged banks,
our puddle-deep suburbia; knuckle-thrusted
by fungi, dusted with dry skin & skinny screams
& over-looked by murky windows,
identical, yet unique by degrees; houses
boxed & roofed, chimed each to their own number,
spread-hedged & labelled as home.
Wind down to a lit-room un-busy evening
away from the club-drum & spin of town,
tuning instead to the bass line of pipes & motors
or the switch-click & wood-creak
of terraced movements. It is itching towards,
aching towards, stiffening towards time
the bulbs blinked cold; moon-lanterns leading
the show into night, with the need for sleep
unfulfilled & slinking towards morning.
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.