Thursday, 23 October 2014

Dressed to impress

Basking through winter skies
catching the sun, your metal skin
has the angular thrust of a shark’s fin
poets should celebrate your glories.
Rising on stilts above an agora
your pleasing palette of orange and green
seems to reconfigure the street scene –
you are a temple to Athena.
As if this were ancient Alexandria
you are home to a million stories
a towering knowledge repository.
You are a magnet, a cynosure.
Dressed in your coat of verdigris
you impress, you are Peckham library.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Thunder frightens us; it works, dear deity.
It is like the crash of artillery
and the flash – an arc of petulance

is a whiplash across the bruised sky.
Our lives had been so orderly

now we dance to your howling tune
as furniture tumbles across the lawn.
A storm shows that you can still be angry.
You know how to put on a good show
you design its light and sound so artfully –
in your wrath is a great theatricality.
Perhaps it’s a covenant, like the rainbow
or a warning against complacency
each damaged town a test of ingenuity.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Lord Nelson

The palms of Queens Road parade raggedly
as if in some listless Mediterranean
of pay-day loans and fried chicken
bruised concrete, a pale yellow sun.
Trafalgar Street leads to the Old Kent Road
where each pub could have been Henry Cooper's gym.
You can almost smell his aftershave
‘splash it on all over’, they called him.
Through the frosted glass of The Lord Nelson
like a sallow ghost, see the faded potman
his fingers twitch for a cork-tipped Rothmans
he is shadow boxing with Charlie Chaplin.
The pub seems trapped in an eternal night.
No-one would enter; not even the daylight.

Rye Lane

Sleek and red the sixty-three
bicycles and vans converge –
Peckham’s traffic mingled in
Cacophonous proximity.
The noisy vendors’ thrust and glare
flows to the pulse of Africa.
Beauty is on offer here –
false eyelashes and human hair
mobile phone accessories
scrawny chickens and breadfruit
the ocean’s harvest, fresh and dried
the emerald of the library
giant yams, cassava root
the church that tells us Christ has died.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Using algorithms and calculus
juggling with equations like Euclid
it draws a map of our loneliness
it knows what we desire, what we did.
Peering through our curtains at night
it knows what we have done, where we have been.
Stuttering in patterns of light
it seems to read our minds through its screen.
We know that there’s something divine in us
that we are the flame to its spark
that it is merely a computer –
a grey box that glimmers in the dark –
that we are divine, we contain godliness
but that it is a glorified abacus.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Philip Larkin and the Sex Pistols

Larkin straps on his Gibson SG.
It's his chosen weapon of attack
for the blistering riff of Mr Bleaney.
He looks at Johnny Rotten – a flashback.
How he had waited for their first MP.
He wrote a letter; Johnny said join us.
That day he left the university.
He went down to London on the bus.
Steve Jones is toast, says the NME.
Larkin brings to the band a new energy.
Punk’s gain is a loss to the library –
each slab of noise is a sonic elegy.
Rotten scowls, from Matlock a cheeky grin.
One, two, three, four … Larkin counts them in.

See him swaggering down the King's Road.
Smile like a fool, pull out the organ stops
he has finally killed off work, the toad
Philip Larkin is on Top of the Pops!
The night of his first gig, in a pub
he threw a punch at Generation X
next thing, he's playing the 100 Club
and buying his new trousers from Sex.
The grey mornings in Hull are forgottten
Marr had Morrissey, Eliot had Pound
Lennon had McCartney; he has Rotten.
There's a tender savagery to their sound
they'll go straight to number one – see how.
Phil's the business, he's ex libris now. 

The Sex Pistols had outraged the country.
Thanks to their vile anthem, God Save the Queen
and their foul-mouthed ranting on TV
they were more outrageous than Benzedrine.
Larkin, the gentle former librarian
with his thick-rimmed glasses and tortoise stare
had become, ipso facto, their guardian
he had pleaded with them not to swear
but a national sense of moral outrage –
a gift, surely, for those who write or sing –
had propelled them onto the front page.
To Philip it was most embarrassing.
He was sure now, he would play softer rock
he would set up a new band, with Glen Matlock.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The hell raisers

Always up, watch them as they gurn and preen 
looking smart in their neat slacks and blazers.
They lurch at us, drunkenly, through the screen
like dinosaurs. They are the hell-raisers.

They create havoc on late-night TV
they are our clowns, our holy fools –
they spin and weave for  us reliably
and drive their cars into swimming pools.
See how, in their narcissistic self-harm
they always go too far, try too hard.
They are sad clowns; all of their charm
seems touched, like Yorick's skull, by the graveyard.
To absolve us of our ordinariness
they are not like us, they are famous.