London

Leaves

What will I do

with the view from my window

my own slice of building-behinds

and trees, the Catholic church spire

in the distance like a giant watch

on a pin

and the way the air shakes

every quarter-hour

vibrates

from the Reformation church nextdoor, out of shot

my white room

my tower, not ivory but

maybe sometimes I feel like

I’m in a precious high-up spot,

far from the world

like the empress in Neverending story

flying through space

with warm lights on and

Give me a name, Bastian!

so my domain is remade

I’m really here with dusty piles

of books that may be read

notepads filled with ink

spilled through with words,

lists, oh they just keep flowing

no matter how afraid or sad I get

I have built my life anew

and when I look out at

those trees and backs of flats

the kindergarten playground

where the foxes live

must remember that

it’s all mine, all mine, not owned

just like I carry the Pool of London

turbulent, tea-coloured Thames

strong, with still a whiff

of Elizabethan sweat and

Dickensian toil

the thriving grime of unwashed success

grit of an ancestor locked in

a prison hulk perhaps

so too, this Swiss scene is kept

inside

and yesterday, the trees so green

the fresh young leaves of spring

and did my heart ache with sadness

desolate, or was it merely glad to see

that once again

 

Photo: Claire Doble

The Winehouse Years

winehouse

We moved into a flat in Camden, London in February 2007. The springtime arrived as I walked the canals. Tried to make me go to rehab I said no, no, no was the soundtrack not just to our lives but everyone’s. As the tendrils of blossom in the air led to open windows and summer started to take hold, you heard it everywhere. From cars, in department stores, late at night in Woodys kebab. Her voice, her pain, her darkness. The poetry in those words seemed to echo my own scribbles from an earlier time. Like everyone’s early-20s angst. She captured something. Meet you downstairs in the bar and hurt, your rolled up sleeves in your skull t-shirt…

We hit the pub. We hit the pub, we hit the pub. When we didn’t go to the pub, we drank at home. You could buy a bottle of O Gallo wine for less than a fiver. I sometimes felt embarrassed how many we bought and how often we’d be over there in the dusty corner store. Camden in the mid noughties. And I worked in Primrose Hill. Worst fulltime job of my life. But it was living like a rockstar goth. My boss was from Gang of Four and I’d see Liam Gallagher in the local pub. Actually you heard him before you saw him. No one else talked quite like that, that accent, in London. Ran into Led Zeppelin in the local off-licence. Slim and still got the hair. What a fox. Whispering excited at spying Grohl in TopMan, racing home to match his tattoos online.

We were all chucking it down every night. And I’d tread a troubled track… so many times I’d walk home with a skinful, mournful but delighted. My music, the sky and me. We drank all the time. On the weekends. Hanging out in the horrible toilets at Big Red and dancing to 20s swing with trannies. Oh, what a mess we made. And now the final frame…

We saw her once in the Hawley Arms. The tottering beehive, black-crayon eyes. She was so tiny and she held us all in her throat with those songs. Her carcrash life. It’s never safe for us. Not even in the evening, because I’hhvve been drinking…

Daydrinking in the beergarden of The Lock Tavern, where you’d ascend a teetering outdoor fire-escape staircase to reach the ladies’ loo. Look out from three-stories high over Camden and London and the pink sky and feel like you could die with the beauty of the world and a table full of friends and being in your 20s and so much wine and it’s Sunday tomorrow. A whole day for recovery. The poignancy of those moments when everything was. Just. Right. I will not forget. I would not change a thing. She walks away, the sun goes down, she takes the day, but I’m grown…

Vale Amy the artist on International Womens’ Day, soundtrack to some of my best-worst years x

Pic: https://www.undergroundarts.org/event/1542691-back-black-philly-tribute-philadelphia/

Some context: I quit drinking in January, so I’ve been thinking and blogging a bit about this stuff. It’s a fascinating journey, life. Thanks for indulging me. 

The year the solitude went away

20180605_133316

 

Looked up one day

it had gone away

the miasma of nothingness

not nothing: thoughts, private, personal contained

in heads and held stiff in upper lips

worlds secret and interior

projected now on screens rectangular

become

the same, shared, cyberflung

enmeshed sudden, and

unexpectedly

irreversible?

a sunset in London

as I wake to a West Virgina morn

while the sound of

flight 370 ruptures

our membrane of hubris

reminding us

we’re still trapped in beingness

and the addiction, the pornography

in the idea

of post geography

 

This poem was inspired by a wonderful interview with sci-fi author William Gibson “On technology, science fiction and the apocalypse” that I watched yesterday. In it, he talks about witnessing the advent of connectivity – being on a train station in central London where everyone was just standing around in their own thoughts, then, only one month later in the same spot, suddenly every person was  staring at their new smartphone. I’ve borrowed some of his lines, including the title. 

 

Photo: by me, it’s Swiss national day! 1 August.

Bluelight

The world makes itself anew

colder and darker

in this hemisphere

begins to shutter herself

for winter and why

do I always see a dull sunrise

over the Piccadilly line

those rows and rows of human homes

neat and pointed, roofs as far

as the eye can see

I can see

the world begin and end here

maybe

mean old time

is a bully from Greenwich

a bleak day

for a new year

as the pall of a zillion tiny screens

slides over faces

uncaring and uncareful with unshed

bluelight tears

Absolution

A woman on the street was circling, circling

her shoulder bag dropped down around her waist

she had spittle on her mouth

a frail and old person

scraggly white hair, a stained windcheater

broken,

and yet I was too afraid to help

bad possibilities zinging through my mind

of being hit, attacked, screeched at, misunderstood

at the heaviness of a human body collapsing on me in relief

the time it might suck from me

I walked by

with tears in my eyes.

doesn’t absolve anything

lazy coward me

she stopped circling, the spell broken

by me?

no way to know how the light gets in to a fissured mind

I told a friend later and got upset again

silly, scared me

still hoping for absolution

which she gave

‘you’re a kind person for even noticing. You wouldn’t be crying now if you didn’t mean well’

but I didn’t care enough

I could have given her a tissue to wipe her face

‘did you even have a tissue? I bet you didn’t even have one on you’

I just shook my head and sighed

the secret shame of soft, 3-ply folds in my bag,

putting me to the lie

knowing they were there all along

just like

the least I could have done

was

offer her one

 

Off-prompt for the penultimate day of NaPoWriMo! 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@raffiklopes

Home again

My post-London tea stash

 

Steam
In shower
Mixes with tears
Wash them all away
Goodbye

London
Once again
Messed my mind
It’s always a bittersweet
Encounter

You can never go home again yet I am here

 

Today’s GloPoWriMo prompt was to write a double elevenie. What’s that? Well, an elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is. There are some good examples in the link above. A double elevenie would have two stanzas of five lines each, and twenty-two words in all.

I’m not sure I did this right – is a proper noun OK? Oh well.. Plus, it seemed weird to not add an extra line, since it’s “day 23” of GloPoWriMo, so I did. :0

Overheard

I’m going darn the West End, they’ve got the last pair on hold for me

silver-haired lady in leopard print leggings on the bus

I don’t think Helen really trusts me

plump girl in a navy pantsuit walking down the street

The Doctor said I need to rest and eat more vegetables. I’ve been on crutches for 8 weeks. No dear, I’m on a bus in Camden

plummy-voiced older gent with red nose who got off and lit a cigarette. He wasn’t on crutches

Hei hei hei. Hei hei hei

Chinese lady on her phone on the bus

Shh shh shh

guy with Tourettes’ on the bus

Was hast du da?

familiar language overheard in a London playground

Can I just put you down here for a minute?

skinny-legged dad on the street in footy gear with his kid, the kid also in footy gear

 

NaPoWriMo prompt for day 21:  to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. I am running late again so the speech is the poem. I had more but my brain’s too full. It’s weird being back in a place where I can understand most of the incidental conversations around me! 

Game. Bus. Match

The rules of the game

don’t engage

when everyone’s insane

or

all too sane and

out for what they can get

innit

every journey takes an hour

no standing in the upper deck

(gosh I feel tall up there tho)

the things you learn

like

never get off transport that’s still moving towards home

no matter what they say

but if it’s stopped

bail straight off

wait, walk or find another way

and always complain

to someone – even just in your own brain

A bomb threat’s not a bomb threat. Is not a bomb threat, is Not a bomb threat

until it is. And terrorism

And then there’s The Met

-bless-

On the Tube

stand

stare at your hands, stare at your hands, rake your eyes over the stands

do not make contact

move down please

move aside

got a seat

eye the crotches, no. Look around, read the ads, don’t wanna be sold to. Eye the crotches, no. read the free newspaper. Eye the crotches, no

do not make contact with eyes or crotches

whatever you do

no

Mind the gap, wait a lot, shove your shoulder, look away, never delay for the next one, although sometimes it’s a sure thing, hey?

The rules are. There are no rulez. No one learns these things in schools, mate

What a teacher.

Preach.

London.

A law of…  masses. Critical. Random.

Can’t. Believe. People. Do. It. Every. Day.

It seems normal. Actually… it seems very fucking normal

The whole world, jerked around, on a big red bus

what a sound

insane decibels juddering and yet all’s well, we’re moving

kid’s screaming, shuttup, we’re all getting home, no one cares, where I get off

let me off

Back door please!

 

Today’s GloPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game. London transport is a sport all of its own.

Unneighbours

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@jamie452

Here we are unneighbours
ignorrelated peoples of
a vast and ambivicity
falsenatural scents crushed under
bootstep and paveground down
an insalubri-sewer lurking at
ankleheight and laughing
with its darklode of
chattertat, the importathoughts  nolongerseemed
unlistened to, unscreamed, suffocatbreathed
we ceasedream and retreat

 

Todays prompt: to write a poem that incorporates neologisms. What’s that? Well, it’s a made-up word! Your neologisms could be portmanteaus (basically, a word made from combining two existing words, like “motel” coming from “motor” and “hotel”) or they could be words invented entirely for their sound. Probably the most famous example of a poem incorporating neologisms is Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, but neologisms don’t have to be funny or used in the service of humor. You can use them to try to get at something that you don’t have an exact word for, or to create a sense of sound and rhythm, or simply to make the poem feel strange and unworldly.

I did this nonsense-word poem and the compound-word poem above. 

Ghazal

 

Oh the mixed-up emotions of being back in London

Knowing you never ever can win London

 

At first it seems like a dream of English perfection

But then, you’ve always been good at spin, London

 

Your welcoming arms mask impervious charms

And they say everyone living here’s kin, London

 

How many folks when they dream of a place

Immediately go off and pin London?

 

Grimy streets and houses, all the same old shops

And you really could use some more bins London

 

But then there’s that energy, heady and strong

Delicious dens of vice, carousing and sin London

 

I may have moved on, but your pull is still strong

Feel you under my skin to chagrin, London

 

And yet I D-Claire, again I am here

Dirty-pretty auld town you’re a djinn, London

 

Today’s prompt was to write a ghazal. The form was originally developed in Arabic and Persian poetry, but has become increasingly used in English, after being popularized by poets including Agha Shahid Ali. A ghazal is formed of couplets, each of which is its own complete statement. Both lines of the first couplet end with the same phrae or end-word, and that end-word is also repeated at the end of each couplet. If you’re really feeling inspired, you can also attempt to incorporate internal rhymes and a reference to your own name in the final couplet. 

This is my first-ever ghazal 🙂