Birmingham on a Saturday (for Sarah)

i wrote the very very long bones for this while in England but i wasn’t pleased with the length or the structure & have spent weeks whittling it down to this still rather lengthy poem. i am omitting commas & semi colons & replacing them with line breaks as punctuation like Alice Oswald in her collection Falling Awake. i think the effect is aesthetically pleasing.
there are no mistakes in this poem i have put everything this way by choice so if some lines seem jarring it is intentional to create an effect of movement or the motion of thinking while walking.

 

Birmingham on a Saturday
for Sarah

morning : cold drizzle smattering of blue sky declining

the train journey flip book window
bucolic oscillating to industry bucolic indust…
London Midland
: Cannock – Birmingham New Street
10:28 a.m. arriving 11:14 a.m.
– atrocious stink of old clothes dairy & fizzy pop.
a beautiful girl way outta my league red lipped
i couldn’t confirm her ethnicity (maybe Iranian)
the rest mostly tedium. heads in phones.
i read snatches of Ted Hughes’ Crow
which dismantles you.

i squirmed in anxious surprise at the unfamiliarity
of Birmingham as if i’d forgotten the spelling of enough.
i always want everything to be the same when i
come home. everything in its rightful place else how
long i’ve been away from home slaps me like the
crack of dark & caught wind when a train hits a tunnel.

i don’t like that.

this is where i escaped as teen me
from the stopped clock one horse Cannock.

noon : cloudy still cold blue sky streaks gone

we met at the muscular bull of shopping.
your eyes the same blue tint as the woman
in Madox Brown’s The Last of England.

i’d forgotten what crowds on slim pavements meant.
people moving in time to the vamping hook
of Alice Coltrane’s Ptah the El Daoud.
the weather geography closing in on pedestrians.
glass’s invitation to reflect ignored
except to correct a rebellious fringe.
the brick & mortar of Victorian Britain
mutely corroding under historical & elemental forces.

i bought books to copy.
i recommended you buy Symmons Roberts. you did
– such a wise decision.

afternoon : downpour downpour downpour close cloud

after lunch coffee & your poems
that need some work but there’s potential.
calm down the angst a bit
& use those incidental details more.
don’t write how you think a poem should be wrote
but write a poem instead.

people stabled like reindeer at the European market
swilling Warsteiners & sodden in the stench of bratwurst & ketchup
– you looked so unimpressed unhappy about it all
those pitiable consumers you thought & said
something along those lines
: nothing’s all that simple anymore
now the picket fence of tradition
is slowly scattering & taken its banners.
they know not what they do
the best thing Jesus said i reckon.

we ducked out the rain in Birmingham art gallery
to hide from the bustle & gloom.
ornate & pseudo-classical
paid for with Empire dosh
-a statement of wealth & power progress.

we talked about ambivalence
the complexity of decision making
when there’s too much to take into account
in front of a religious painting
of a woman in a simple robe genuflecting
in a shaft of light depicting God Almighty
her arms raised to funnel the glow into her face.
i don’t know the painter or painting’s name
didn’t care to look- it was merely a useful to-hand
for the purpose of exampling ambivalence
: i said she may be trying to strangle God (or light).

very little relevant in the galleries.
most of it just colourful background noise
focused in on possession & piety
a hell of a lot of holiness misunderstood.
i liked John Everett Millais’s The Blind Girl
anything pastoral & illustrates hardship
it should omit the pomposity of the rich.
you didn’t seem to care much for anything
but that’s ok.

evening downpour continues there’s no light

i left you wet through & i thought lost
a little baffled with everything- it upset me.
when i first met you all kinetic
i could hear your pulse from across a room
& now the years have mashed you with their pestle
-i didn’t & don’t know what i can do to return you.

the world’s track record’s never going to stop
leeching from us some vitality.
we need console ourselves with the consistency
of our epiphanies (sorry this didn’t come to me then).

i have archived the important points
in my D.N.A. or is that D.A.N? (not funny?)
i can return to it on days i’d rather forget
– something to anaesthetize
all the after effects of growing pains
& placebos of happiness
i only hope you will do the same.

remember it is a slog to get beyond ourselves
many don’t reach much further than the tip of their snout
the rim of their eyes n’ ears or forked points of their heads.
we’re trapped in this dualism against our will
no matter what the positive thinkers or
New Age guffters preach through memes on Facebook.

night: still raining (lashing) & chill up to the bone

on the train two quasi-posh (queasy) tarts
slagged off a woman not present to defend herself
saying she is poor ‘cuz she buys her clothes from New Look
in a flawless black country accent.
they have children & husbands perhaps a job
& tired from buying things off the bull. too much for me.
young sisters got off at Walsall talked about love
that if you look into a person’s eyes for longer than 1 minute
you will fall in love with them
sounds like a mix of hypnotism & roofy to me.

people talk such a lot of wank.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. A fine vivid poem. I really like the scene and imagery you paint. It feels like I’m watching a movie.
    Its nice to see you write about your hometown.

    Moreover, it is even better that you wrote Birmingham on Saturday, because if it was London on Friday, there wouldn’t be any trains:

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/southern-rail-strike-peace-deal-is-a-universe-away-a3436816.html

    1. the original is monstrously sprawling. i worked hard on this poem. i’d usually give up when a poem is just not happening, but i persevered & let this one settle until i could get my head around want i needed it to do. i think the turning point was structuring the day around morning, noon accompanied by the weather, a very British topic. do you think the image of the ‘flip book window’ is believable, does it work? i was a little unsure but decided to go with it.

      1. It is not only believable, but a brilliant description that paints how scenes fly by on a train. The description of the weather as indicating the progress of the day is great as well. This poem is a perfect piece of contemporary art.

      2. i am working on something, in my head for now, on musicality in verse & the importance of studying the form of poetry to be able to write poetry well. these sorts of things take me some time, so bare with me.

      3. That sound like a great essay, I eagerly look forward to it!

  2. notamigrant says:

    i know these scenes so well, it’s my adopted city, I hear the bull debate, I hear the Black Country people getting on and off the train…that rain is still around, that flip book window works

    1. haha you should be amply prepared for reading this then. the city has changed so much in just a couple of years. i hardly recognize it.

      1. notamigrant says:

        you must tell me more…i have felt like this on the trains ever since i came here…maybe you just view it from a faraway place

      2. my poem isn’t really supposed to be negative toward trains if that is what you think, i think public transport in any form is a good thing, they do smell, they are sometimes unreliable but i’d rather that than nothing. compared to Korea England’s trains are too expensive & that is a problem. but i never wanted to learn to drive, so public transport is necessary to me. Nabokov learned colloquial English from public transport, they are the locus of daily life. this is what i wanted to show in the poems opening passage. do you remember Birmingham a couple of years ago? the station was much different & even some of the main streets have been changed a little i think. the library too has gone. i was lost, & i’ve been there so many times.

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