Two London poems
The past month has been the usual one in my country of Christmas festivities and new year celebrations.
For many, this is still a joyous religious season, although for a diminishing number given the advances of secular society and the growth of minority religions. For most it is a time for the family, and that means time together if you can manage it, and poignant phone calls and Skype if some the family are far away, as in our case. There is time off work, often for a full week to bridge with the new year. The new year itself can be a great time of partying or a slightly shame-faced one of creeping to bed a tiny bit later than usual on your own. The news media review the past year interminably, and I suppose that is the same throughout the world. Living in the northern hemisphere, it is also the season for coughs and colds, germs and viruses, and gloomy news reports about the queues at doctors’ surgeries and in hospitals.
So for me and my own family, this has been a hectic but basically happy month. Much of the news from around the world has been disturbing, and we are apprehensive about 2017, but it has been a season for getting together, for taking time out.
I’ve been looking back at some of the poetry I have written – in part because some of my poems are going to pop up in publications over the next few months, but mainly because I wanted to do some stock-taking among my draft poems, chuck some out, re-file a few, and take a fresh look at others.
Two of these are firmly rooted in London, and so I thought I would offer them to you in the hope that you enjoy them. Moments of Suspense was written several years ago and posted on my poetry blog; it reflects on an incident many years ago by the River Thames. The London Taxi is a Thing of Beauty also started out some years ago but it got stuck in draft. At last, I saw a way of bringing it to fruition and I have rewritten it for The Wagon.
Here then are two poems from London.
My Christmas presents to you.
Moments Of Suspense
It’s a muscular river, the Thames, marching
through London the colour of gun metal.
At times however, at dawn, as the light
brushes the sky, it’s tranquil, numinous –
Sampson without his hair.
One such morning, at low tide,
we might have seen a man wading,
waist-deep, bending and scooping,
sifting the mud, scooping and sifting,
wholly absorbed in his task.
He paused beneath the Houses of Parliament,
where lamps still burned, and there on a terrace
was a lone figure, watching the dawn,
suit buttoned against the chill,
face drawn and grey.
Two metres apart but not a word
exchanged – their lives, their worlds, briefly
drifting close, a random sighting.
One then slowly returned inside;
the other resumed his search.
And all around the air now seemed
to lighten, to quiver on the point of day,
while traffic alighted on Westminster Bridge
and barges took to the river.
The London Taxi is a Thing of Beauty ...
... to no-one. Fat, misshapen, it squats by the side of the road
like a toad, waiting. Then with a leap it’s away.
And in flight it’s a bat, faster than thought, avoiding collision
only through possession of an alien sixth sense.
To the occupants however it’s a protective shell,
a sea-chest, a submarine slicing through currents and tide.
So many lives may rest here briefly, lulled
while the cab whirls them from one clear world to another:
shoppers and executives, yes; but young lovers too
with eyes for each other alone as time speeds on; or
the prince cast out from his kingdom embarking on exile;
the hero returning home after years away.