i posted this in Winter, after my trip to England. i began writing it in England & finished it a few weeks later in Korea. Since then (being a serial faffer) i have made additions & amendments & as it will probably prove too difficult to get such a long poem published in a journal, i want to re-post it in a polished form, which i feel is quite an improvement on the original. i’m fond of this poem if only because it is one of the only solid poems i have written about England in the last 6-7 years; there being only a handful & room still.
Birmingham on a Saturday
morning: cold drizzle
smattering of blue sky declining
no blustery episodes yet
The train journey flip book window
a bucolic oscillation of industry bucolic indust…
London Midland: Cannock – Birmingham New Street
10:28 a.m. arriving 11:14 a.m.
— atrocious stink of old wet clothes, dairy & fizzy pop.
A scally sat next to me, cowled like a Jesuit
the smell of last night’s sesh on his hoody
the telltale signs in his double glazing eyes.
An exotic girl from Landywood, outta my league, rouge lipped
i couldn’t confirm her ethnicity (maybe Iranian)
—the rest of the journey, tedium: heads in phones
no one behaves outside their chair.
i read snatches of Ted Hughes’ Crow
which dismantles you.
i squirmed anxiously, surprised by my unfamiliarity
of Birmingham, as if i’d forgotten the spelling of enough.
i 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 trapped wind when a train smacks a tunnel.
i struggle to cope with
the evasion of guilt i should stand up to.
This is where i escaped, as a teen
from the stopped clock, one horse Cannock.
noon: cloudy, still cold
— blue sky replaced by samite of cloud
We met at the well-knit bull of consumerism.
Your eyes, the same blue as the woman
from Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England.
i’d forgotten what crowds on slim pavements meant.
People striding in time to the vamping hook
of Alice Coltrane’s Ptah the El Daoud.
The weather’s geography closing in on pedestrians.
The invitations of glass to reflect, ignored
except to correct a libertine fringe.
The brick & mortar of Victorian Britain
mutely corroding under historical & elemental forces
—fanning moss wings readying for forests.
i bought books to mimic
advised you to buy Symmons Roberts.
You did—such a wise decision.
afternoon: downpour downpour downpour
cloud foetal round the city’s downcast plod
After lunch coffee & your poems
which still need work, but there’s potential.
Calm the angst down a touch
& get some incidental details in them.
Don’t write how you think a poem should be
write a poem instead.
People stabled like reindeer at the Christmas 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 dismantling & taken its banners.
They know not what they do
the wisest thing Jesus said i reckon.
We ducked out the rain & into Birmingham art gallery
to avoid the bustle & gloom.
That ornate, pseudo-classical mausoleum
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 sleeve of light, denoting God Almighty
her arms raised to funnel the brightness 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 on possession & piety
—a hell of a lot of holiness misunderstood.
i liked John Everett Millais’s The Blind Girl
anything pastoral, which 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 unabated by prayer
there’s no light, whatsoever
i left you wet through & i thought lost
a little baffled with everything, it upset me.
When i first met you, all kinetic
a parable of perpetual motion
i could hear your pulse from across a room
& now the years have ground 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 our thin 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
i will return to them on days i’d rather forget
—something to anesthetize
all the after effects of growing pains
& placebos of happiness
—i only hope you will do the same.
Remember it’s 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 New Age deacons preach through memes on Facebook.
night: still raining (lashing)
& chill up to the bone
On the train two quasi-posh tarts
slagged off a woman not present to defend herself
saying she is poor ‘cuz she buys her clothes from New Look
in flawless Black Country accents.
They have children & husbands, perhaps a job
its hard to believe when they speak like playground teens
—must be 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.