Urban and suburban

Kebab desire
The wind throws rain against the grimy pane,
Which shows the tree that sheds its leaves and bends,
Through filthy nets whose shreds connect its holes.
He wonders whether winter ever ends.

A fractured mirror throws him back his glance
And highlights stubbled face and greasy hair.
His skin displays the angry needles’ marks
Of years of pain, of sorrow and despair.

He lies back on the mattress, breathing in
The smell of loves long gone, of fevers burned.
No blanket, sheet or quilt to keep him warm.
Instead three coats. No way to warm is spurned.

The stolen TV ends the late night news
And now the hunger pangs begin to stab.
His drooling mouth betrays his deepest need,
His rumbling gut screams out for a kebab.

No money left – to eat now means to steal.
And in this rain there’s no one in the street.
To go where people are means walking miles.
And sacrificing hard-won body heat.

He gives up hope, decides instead to dream
Of skewered meat that turns upon a fire.
His eyes begin to close, and breathing deep.
He wins the sleep of deep kebab desire.

Suburban neighbour
Deep in the garage his icon is living.
A symbol of all that a man ever needs.
A pure seven litres of grunt and machismo.
An Aston that’s reached its thirty year mark.

It’s black and it’s shiny, its grille smiles so broadly.
It welcomes him each time he opens the door.
He gets in and feels round him the comfort of leather.
It’s warm and it tells him that he has arrived.

It’s a third car, for use on weekends and occasions.
But not for the school run or shopping with kids.
This car’s just for status, to make an impression.
It’s used now and then, when he’s in the right mood.

He turns the ignition, at first he gets nothing.
He tries once again, and the engine responds.
It stutters, and growls, and then hiccups its answer
And rumbles to life in a haze of blue smoke.

He’s still in the garage and breathing its fumes in,
It’s a drug that sustains his belief in the car.
He smiles to himself when he thinks of his outing,
For he knows that his car can take all comers on.

His drive is congested. He gets out of his dream car
To shuffle his Honda and Beamer estate.
He’s back in his monster and revs up the engine.
The car starts to rumble, and rattles our house.

He’s out of our close, creeping over the hump.
The sound slowly fades as he drives down the road
In just thirty minutes he returns with his monster.
And all for a pizza, a paper and milk.

Hampton garden
I sit working, and through the window
See autumn slowly strangling our garden.
Our neighbour’s oak covers the lawn with crunchy acorns.
Apples ripen on a miniature tree, slender arms crutched.
Lawn weeds mount their last challenge, while the yew
Bombards the patio with red stickiness.
We move the chairs so we can sit in the sun.

Neighbourhood police
You watch us all, simmering when we
Neglect our gardens – grass too long,
Leaves unswept, pots too cluttered
Windows unpainted, garden lights failed,
Cars unwashed, parked untidily.
But look at yourself. If you were a house and garden
And not our neighbour, we would scorn you.

Holly and yew trees
Dark, round, outside my window, cutting out
Winter sun, when I crave the warmth of spring.
Then you shoot, look brighter for a while, but
Take the light I need, drain the earth of moisture,
Killing struggling grass, and when other trees turn brown.
You glue my path with berries, hitch-hiking into the house.
Your final year at your size, for this winter I’ll truncate you.

Costa Hammersmith Broadway
Cappuccino steam machine
Whistles, swooshes,
Completes my cup.

I balance it to my table,
Sit slowly, stir in sugar,
Wanting to wake.

I read, note the news.
Nothing novel, repeated themes.
Today's the same.

Outside, people pass,
Fast, rush to work,
Just one girl smiles.

Thinking, drinking slowly,
Mind grinding into gear,
I'm good to go.

Burger burglar at Burger King, Waterloo
Tattered bag man scouts the tables
Seeking the unfinished meals.
Eyes light up when he discovers
Chicken bites or scattered chips.
Over on another table
Unused sauces wait for him.
Opening them, he dips with relish,
Wolfing down, and then is gone.
SPRING TRILOGY (Two sonnets and a haiku)
Torrents…
A wave of sap now breaks the garden’s peace
The bushes lose their shape, invade the lawn
Their shoots surge out, no sign of any cease
An ill-considered growth, green lust reborn.
The soggy moss infests the tidy sward,
With clover creeping quiet in close support
Meanwhile the grass escapes, and leaps toward
The flowerbeds, where refuge new is sought.
The year is born again, no sign of age.
But as for us, the future’s not so bright.
The garden breaks us, puts us in a rage.
We mow, we rake, we prune, but lose the fight.
By June despair drowns all, and then we sigh….
God give us concrete jungle – till we die.

Rustle…
Our garden gulps attention. “So unfair!”,
Complains our house, “Please paint my walls.”
While pollen drenching, choking, wheezing air
Of we who breathe it deep takes heavy toll.
Sweet shoots that shyly turn to early leaves
Are scythed away by vicious slugs and snails,
Round pellets steer, chop life out, evil thieves.
The signs are left by slimy killer trails.
The tulips, hyacinths that grace the scene
In days pass through their splendour, quick to fade.
Sad slaughtered fledglings, cat drags, red through green.
The garden gives our dreams a greyer shade.
A place to while away our latter hours?
Each year we work on it takes two off ours.

Final burst…
Rash invading weeds
Colonise the ordered lawn.
Suburban nightmare!

The neighbour
A few yards down the road.
You’re always there, O’Sheagh.
Big, brave? Or brutal beast?
That’s what we think of you!

Your Irish chin, deep cleft.
Black curly hair, grey-streaked.
Eyes sparkle when you speak.
A rapid lilt that charms.

Your belly slopping oVer
The top of tracksuit belt.
Big hands that lifted hods
Strong arms that shifted sods.

A Gael by mother tongue,
You crossed the Irish Sea,
For years of labour’s grind,
But played hard all your life.

Surprised to see you now
Your big suburban house
The driveway full of cars.
Your garden neat and green.

Your brushes with the law
Are part of normal life.
We’re never sure how long
You spent inside a cell.

Your first wife died distressed.
Her brain destroyed, she howled.
Her carer you then wed.
Your new son, just like you.

And now your body fights,
As cancer takes it toll.
You’ve found a way to deal
With doctors’ lying ways.

Your generation fades,
The funeral round begun.
Your late nights coming home,
You lurching from the cab.

Our daughter fears you most.
Your hands that wander free.
Strange glances at young girls.
We ne’er know what you feel.

One moment playing jigs,
An hour of drunken fun.
Next day, your lowering looks.
The threats you aim at all.

Stations
White footwear on wet, greasy Baker Street,
somehow they still shine bright
as if he floats above the pavement.
Relentless rain deters dirt from clinging.

From Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square
standing stock-still as a statue
while curious children stare,
drop pennies in his hat.

In Bank's busy rush hour
he busks beautiful blues on his flute
but the tunes don't stop the moving.
He won't make a mint.

With his wife he surfaces at Oxford Circus,
she on his arm, cards in purse.
Poor fool, he hopes to
survive the day still in surplus.

She emerges from Piccadilly Circus,
eyes straining to see
a silly semi-celebrity
exit the Café Royal.

He leaves home to go to Bow Road
on a cold November morning, with no coat
and an east wind blowing over Essex
from the North Sea.

He crosses over from Westminster,
petition in pocket,
hoping to persuade a politician
to plead his pitch in Parliament.

From Green Park down to the palace
to peer through railings to see
the guard, perhaps gain a glimpse
of a minor royal.

To Canary Wharf he comes
early every morning
by wheeling and dealing to
make his next million - he thinks.

At half past nine he arrives at Victoria,
goes to work in the ministry,
civil servant, creating complexity,
dreaming of early retirement.

Arriving at Paddington from Heathrow,
visa not quite right for what he wants,
but still employers need him
and he'll stay.

These are London optimists.


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