Oct
2011

A South Bank Story.

Now crunching wheels grind the concrete
Metal bones groan
The blasting surge of the Thames
Heard in silence.

And he, pausing,
an old man now
(by the standards of these things),
Stops and breathes.

He holds, not proudly,
The board he once rode.
One of many; a few shattered
And spilled him aslant on the slopes.

He is a phrase-book
Brought through time
To translate the thoughts of those
He knew here.

A push, speed, not fast
His feet planted, steady.
Old patterns, set, recalled,
Cultural phlogiston, nerves aflame.

A rush of air stirs
His – thinning – hair, curls
The morning mist about
His rushing, flying form.

Bolder now, he jumps, bolder now
He flips the board –
Mistake, and down
He tumbles, old and broken.

Foolish. He stands and,
On the weight of himself,
Turns in silence
Back to home.

Ripples now disturb
The water, softly still,
Down by the stair to river Thames
Down by the gate to sea.

So what breaks
From the foam-waves,
From the float of London,
Pooled by the edge?

There something from a running dream
Twisting in to waking fright,
Shuddered and flopped
From the wretched grey brown river.

It stares about
Eyes dark and vacant
It does not see
It does not live.

It rises on the lowest stair
Lifts its head, again,
And with a shivering
Climbs.

Follow up, more things now come
From the barren dark
From the death-chill pool
Up, up the steps to the light.

He stumbles now, his legs awake
Awake to fear
Awake to pain
He stops before he howls.

The dead, the drowned
Food of the Thames
Sliding out of the water
Light across the ground.

Women there, fallen women,
Who dance with broken bones
Fallen women
Who dance beneath the waves.

One thing, a man, deep black now
A slash throat
A jaw white
Holds a creature-woman close.

They two sway,
And hum, and sing,
Together, apart,
Lost in the world above.

He, elbows breaking rock,
Pushing deeper back,
Watches from the well
The painted cave of concrete.

The air hangs limp,
Grey cloud mist unstirred
By the whirling bodies
Cutting through the dawn.

Laughter, chatter,
They are London
History, brought through time
By the rushing cold.

It cannot last
No city sleeps
And far but near
A bell sounds.

Small, insistent,
No tolling chime,
A cyclist signals
Return, return!

Back into your silted grave
Back down the steps you came.
Your dancing ends
Your stepping stop.

A smile, he sees
A smile, thin and bright
He sees the smile
And it sees him.

Again the bell,
Again return,
All those out of place.
The owners return.

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