Poem: London Trio #1

Posted by RDN under RDN's poems on 13 July 2017

These London Trio poems are:

London #1 Marylebone
London #2 The Thames
London #3 Pimlico

This is:
London #1 Marylebone


London #1 Marylebone

I woke up in a garden
in a wood
of chestnuts and beech
and London plane,
this last with sage in their leaves.

And there were silver grey
or even dull eau de nil
blotches on the pale bark
themselves like Valerie‘s
sample-pot emulsion patches on a wall.

They seemed half splash, half daub,
and all these colours were clear and vivid
against the white
of the back of the
late Victorian terrace
where young Procktor lived
and whose old house went up in flames.

The street carries his glamour
even now:
one sees Princess Margaret,
wooed and laughed-at,
herself striving and grand,
and all in a world of Minis
and Harper’s Queen,
arriving,
knowing that artists
have a sort of ton.

Children haven’t yet started up
in the school playground over the wall
but the blackbird
sings on my side,
and pigeons, grey bombers,
thrash about the trees above my head,
doing their scrapping, flirting thing;
and now they shake a single bough
with renewed coupling.

I can hear my
inner nature writer,
a Mabey, say, or an Edward Thomas,
offering threnodies and love letters
to the shards of wildness
amongst the mosses and stray ferns
of tight curtilages
and grey-stepped areas
railed and dankly verdant
as a Dorset goyle.

But here, too,
Is my narcissist, stylish
Tyler Brule
laying down the law
from an eyrie nearby,
hawkish for weakness
winnowing the unaware –
the unalert –
or the merely appetitive,
the unhoned,
the undieted blobby,
who could care less
for the Metropolitan Police of style.

I turn and go through
to the front of the house,
where art deco glass
and artful pottery are tasters
for a wall of paintings:
the Nashes and Piper
are represented here,
and Craxton too,
and England seems
sunnily modern,
its drizzles burnishing
the scene;
its clouds a useful
dark sternness
as the country rested from wars
on Mediterranean shores
and Elizabeth David brought home
stories of
newly liberated
olive oil.

I was a Londoner of the 1950s,
a boy wandering the bus routes,
and the pavements,
learning scraps of history from Blue Plaques,
brushing shoulders with
two generations of
warriors
met
in gun metal statues
or on park benches
where they sat with
a trouser leg folded
up against a stump.

In all of London
no street is quite unknown
to this old geezer
who wandered everywhere
as a half-child,
half-teenager,
in love with the sheer hub-hub
of the thing
and a ticket to a Bardot movie
in his hand.

Each ensemble
is familiar,
from seven story, deck access blocks
to near-penitential Peabody estates;
Nash terraces
and serried mansion blocks
and clerkish late Victorian streets
and cottages and villas
boasting gardens
and memories of mistresses;
and westerly streets,
where Gallico’s charwomen rented
and travelled by bus to posher parts,
and dreamed of Dior,
and now entitlement tractors
jostle for primacy.

In one mood
every flat shields a murderer
or a bankrupt
hovering in Sickert’s
menacing tedium
and magnificent
derelict eroticism.

And in another,
every window
gives a glimpse
of people
using London to make themselves
from scratch, or in renewal.

Strolling in Crawford Street
I see a garage ramp –
“No hooting please” –
says a sign
(once old and faded, now refreshed)
and the mind’s eye sees an ex-soldier
— it might be 1920 or 1950 —
down on his luck
on the edges of the motor trade
in Cromby and trilby,
both worn and shiny,
heroics forgotten
and not even retold, not now,
over generous halfs
in the Wellington and
and isn’t that cracked spirit
about to do a silly killing?
Balchin or Rattigan
pauses, sees the figure,
re-reads his Famous Murder Trials,
and considers
and plunders the man
for a story,
but gives him a belated fate
and soon the soldier
(at the end of his tether, and now of a noose)
is given a moment’s applause on stage
or smokey sympathy
in a cinema,
and audiences from, say,
Montagu Square,
clap or dab
and recognise how close they came
to other London worlds,
themselves not firmly anchored in luck.

 

 

Comment

RDN books on Amazon