First Address

To those who have glimpsed this city stripped

down to the urban bones the Eye is blind to,

those I knew, travellers on the one road,

the leather-clad followers of the pale shambolic

who launched raw meters from pockets to prosaic skies,

unfolding a.m. highs along the dawning Thames,

sweethearts of the middleclass who sought the novel

sides of sickliness & wrote about all they found,

who essayed the developments of the self through each degree

of isolation among the enveloping crowd, a crowd of mirrors,

who found beauty blooming in fields of bleak brick

for the illegally expressed, the alleyway gallerygoers

of viral visions sprayed across the broken backs of

indifferent towerblocks packed with affordable youth,

to that same man – I saw you at home, I saw you far out

withdrawn from the sober day in subways, I saw you

smoking sorrow down to the borrowed filter, I saw you

praying warmth beneath the wait of hours, I saw you

in all manner of fucked from bridge to park to

your own front door or just the one you hung around

& I understand it all, I think. You could have been my uncle:

just as anonymous & numbed to the merciless streets

we didn’t know we didn’t want to be on at eighteen

while southbank ghouls itch away the hours, materialise

to fix heads, drag habitual bodies to abandoned midnights

& prey on the cleanest of sons & daughters

who are in the tireless memories of forgotten parents.

I remember the cunning of cracked minds, the ill-at-ease

in morning need, noon need, need of night to feed,

the baggy sleeve that becomes the blade, the thrust

& rust & speed & blood I ask for with all my naivety,

wallet & phone & preconceptions spilt into upper hands

as children lie sheltered in sleep above streetlight

& there are no victims, only the losing & the lost.