27 February 2012
On Victoria Street
Snatches of city sound
breathe over my shoulder as
I ponder through Westminster streets.
Warm afternoon pub-crowds
soothe the burn of your tattoo,
stinging my back under my coat.
I would drink you away if I could -
write you away in verse.
I wanted to lose you in the vagaries of distance.
Who gave you permission to drink vodka
in a watercolor-corner of this London pub?
If I keep on walking until all the pubs
are closed, could I leave you behind?
Pushing open the discerning door,
I dare to look back.
And there you stand,
quietly smoking and watching -
you turn away, too.
“So I came doon to Lundan”, Sayeth Jamie
“So I came doon to Lundan to inherit this
crazy old auntie — a second cousin once
removed, really, but we used to say ‘aunt’.
“She was a vicious hag, killed Mother, the
Queen of Scots, the Fair Mary, as people
used to called her. But the aunt, the Virgin
Lizzie, knew well she had to leave her throne
and her lands to Me and none other; no one
closer did she have, the spiteful ole spinster.
“So I come doon to Lundan — mind you: it’s
up on the map, North is at the bottom, South
side is up — but it is way doon as you march
from my highlands, from that pimple that is
the hill of Edinburgh castle and across the
Marches, by the stone abutment, which people
call Roman Wall, and into England, my new
realm, the tabula rasa upon which to leave
my imprint, my Bible, my courtly etiquette.
“Cunning are these Lundanners! Easily did
they recognise my refined æstheticism,
my love of things pretty, lads fine and manly,
loyal nonetheless! A sweet childe and wife
they brought to me, young George Villiers,
the handsomest-bodied in all of England
to please my lonely elderly gaze at all times,
my drained passions to reawake with kisses.
“They call me ‘The First’ here, James I. Nah,
I is no first! James the Sixth am I. A long
line of my predecessors have marked the
world — certainly Alba, Scotland; Eire; and
indeed England, albeit in a lesser way than,
in the last decades, I have been marking this
land with my rule, my belief, and my mores.”
I came into this world with my pockets full
of all the calamities that children bring.
I was a city child, born breach into traffic and December smog.
I grew up building dens; safe havens, moments of quiet.
From my pine cot in the photograph
to under the mahogany stairs in Maida Vale;
sheet tents, table forts, trailing flexes of lamps into closets.
Walks with my father through Hyde Park,
its towering oak trees and rivers of leaves all autumn,
dialling Algeria from a water fountain pretending it was a phone,
strolling through the seasons, hands sticky with ice cream.
Skyscrapers rotated above the filigree of Oxford Street,
it held fairytale window displays of dolls,
the traffic lights were gemstones set in silver.
My London, a city of statues and shadows;
labyrinthic underground trains, an all girl’s school
opening portholes for all my Sapphic possibilities,
a keloid of runaway rooftops, hesitant kisses, obsessions.
My London, a scarring place of no return, a city I keep changing
the locks on from the outside so my father cannot escape.