November

November 5, 2011

It’s still too easy
to aim west but go east,
waking up in Stepney Green
like a man in a river raft
going for the narrows

When you cross the bridge to the other platform
your internal compass lies
and your stomach lies
but you know
that the heat has gone on
in two small rooms in Earls Court,
and you count the stations go by
like prayer beads
in a mantra of movement and chance,
while strangers avoid your eyes
clutching the freesheets

Advertisements

city drug

September 16, 2011

We fly in through clear skies
London opens spills unlocks
endless light strings and
I can’t stop watching
white and yellow lights spread wide like
some giant’s child that
willful and violent, laughs
having spilled the chains of gold
and pearl necklaces
belonging to his rich mother;
from jewelry box to chaos, in one breath or a thousand

One hour later, when I emerge from the underground
a full moon silently burns the three lanes of Warwick Rd
like a searchlight
while cars make their escape in sequence

Suddenly, she comes out
three doorways ahead of me
short skirt raven hair black leather jacket
body so thin
it makes you human again
and her high heels flash
bright red and play a staccato as she walks,
face obscured by darkness

She gets in a car and drives off.

This is the sickness, the City drug, the hunger
that makes you stick around – and I raise a salute
to the moon and the madness
while the corner shop owner frowns
at the young men hanging
outside his door

Lycia

March 8, 2011

Lycia meets Ben at campus. He is traveling and life is easy, Peru in the spring is full of colours. He doesn’t dance the salsa, but makes her laugh. His paleness contrasts her coffee skin and their eyes match.

Six months later he goes back to Belgium to continue his studies, he is smart and numbers flow from his fingers. Computers obey him. His heart is full of love, and he is only 21. Her heart is full of love too, although she is only 19. She wants to study politics.

A few months of text messages and Skype calls later, Lycia smells smoke in the air as Cairo burns while her international internship dissolves through force majeure full of anger and the discontent of an ancient people hitting the future head on. Lycia’s roommate is out in the city as it burns, camera in his hands freezing the moment again and again, while only angles separate him from both bullets and the images that make it into the New York Times. Lycia stays in her apartment. Her company asks her to keep quiet, remain discreet, and her pictures remain unpublished.

Lycia’s family is in a panic – their baby is caught in the kind of life that happens to others. They try to get her a plane ticket, the first one, anywhere, just get out of there baby, be safe. Lycia moves fast, her passport flashes the scanner at Brussels airport as she arrives. To say that Ben is surprised is to say truth, or nothing. She stays with him the first week and then sets out on her own. It takes her two days to find a room, shared with a Janet, or Gemma, also a brunette, also with smiling eyes, also into politics.

Some time later, her new flatmate invites her to a party. She arrives, excitement shining in her eyes. She is unprepared – it’s a masquerade and a German Snow White wearing a red garter dances to Dizzee Rascal in a living room that has seen no war, while Princess Fiona extends a green hand in welcome.

When she meets me, I am wearing black, and my mask is venetian. She tells me her story while I lean against a door post. Lycia is twenty, and she is excited. Life is full of wonders. Ben is sick at home and here she is. She wonders about what I do and if I have a degree. She says that she will publish her pictures of Cairo on Facebook. Maybe. She catches me by surprise, a real traveller moving through life among people who chat for a living. Her smile is alive.

She hopes she will find an internship soon. She hopes Ben will feel better tomorrow. She hopes she can get a drink. She hopes.

Losing count

February 2, 2011

She met me at the end of the long escalator
where I was spat out,
hat and coat and bag and all
(A crosser of borders if there ever was one)

her feet were planted
on separate tiles
of the train station floor,
And I wanted to count them
(just to see if I could)

The station lights shot re-used photons,
aging my eyes,
while she led the way
to the freedom of tunnels and the steel caterpillars
that cost one euro eighty to enter

I hummed an old song I had heard somewhere else
and it went:

“She was script
waiting to be written,
A fruit to be peeled
I just need a napkin
and a quiet corner”

Hours later on the floor,
Empty Walls bounced our soundtrack
into our faces.

By the time we fell asleep
The room had already cooled again.

In Berlin

December 25, 2010

I get lost in the subway and
go north instead of south
for two stations, until
I realise my mistake at Nordbahnhof. 
Tentative steps take me
up the stairs,
then down the stairs, where 
the yellow tube light turns the edges of the platform green.

Three people pause their lives until
Train doors slide open.

a touch of the button
opens the embrace of the underground and
I step in to be carried away again

Peoples lives flow around me in German,
with no subtitles or voiceover.
The voice of the train is that of a woman, here as elsewhere 

I hope I’m travelling south again –
it’s all going south anyhow
one may as well go with the flow

Arriving in Los Angeles

November 11, 2010

Guy says ‘taxi?’
and leads me
to the saddest Hyundai in town;
Maroon paint job dulled by years –
one more small town beauty
who didn’t make it in the big leagues,

Nice car’s in the shop, he tells me,
rear ended by some asshole and so
he must
do the streets
In this piece of garage
garbage.

He drives for
three girls, for the baby mama
training to be a beautician;
for the kindness inside,
and he feeds the roads with his stare

His phone rings
and rings and rings and he looks but
does not pick up. (cops are out to get you, you know)

‘my girls are so good’ he says
‘after
we baptised them;
They get up each morning and pray together’

He longs for the wife to start working
Maybe take a day off;
seven days a week on the streets
is hard on the guts

He charges me too little
and lets me off
around the corner from the Four Seasons –
You just don’t approach golden palisades
in the saddest Hyundai in town.

Flight BA283 LHRLAX

November 9, 2010

We chase the sun towards Los Angeles
like troopers.
equipped with headphones
laptops, screens, eye masks, and complementary facial kits

The 747 flies windows shut
(souls need to be transported in darkness)
We bring our night with us
unaware (or maybe aware)
That there’s enough night where we’re going

Heathrow express

November 7, 2010

Emerging from the underground
Dirty and wormlike;
morning sun scalpels
my eyes
with tender claws as
I refuse its caresses
heading for the train

Three hours of sleep
clutch my brain with mean
dumb fingers
and I want nothing
except to travel through the sky
In a majestic tube
of beauty
and accomplishment
and my grandfather’s love
for jet engines

A hotel room in Frankfurt

September 28, 2010

This room
has a lamp and
a bed and a bath and
silent walls that swallow
every insult

They ignore me
like they have ignored countless others
In this room where
sheets are crisp
and the rich
and the corporate
sleep and eat and watch CNN and porn

But one time
the walls
blushed
and the bed moaned
and the bath sighed
and the ceiling sang
songs of sweat and gasped breath and
stray hairs in the mouth
while the carpet could smell,
could smell! her sex on his
face

Those lovers kept the light on
just as I keep the light
on
while the TV
spits
German
at me
in a different kind of facial
with a broken remote
and no off button

Nothing is implied

September 6, 2010

A train ride to Paris
Strangers may meet
And they may talk
Nothing is promised
Nothing
Nothing
Is implied
Strangers speak of weather
Their secrets on the inside
And handbags clutched to chests

No hidden agendas
On this train ride
Do not cringe little Leah
Strangers are talking of weather
And nothing is promised tonight