Greenwich, you gorgeous and big-statued suburb
of indigo, orange and furlongs of green,
where arsonists kindled a riverside hubbub
with boat-lovers stoking the billowing scene.
Who did it? Some landlubber band who’ve decided
that mankind can never do anything good
on the ocean? Oh, poor old ship cruelly ignited,
Cutty Sark, fashioned from Grenwegian wood!
Some pine like a parrot that’s missing its homeland
and though I grew up only six miles due north,
I’m pining too, under the plumes, as I roam land
with plague-pits beneath it, sauntering forth.
I saunter past violins crashing round columns
and domes from some curly-wigged century, stalls
where incense and glitter are sold in large volumes
to buxom young ladies with South London drawls.
Along Cade and Wat Tyler Roads, by the heath,
a fox-dotted Eden that blooms in my heart,
I roam around cyclists and acorns, beneath
a beaming great laser that’s possibly art.
This electric green shaft, I’ve been told, they shoot out
to mark a meridian ripe for the staring.
Why then, do they frequently shift it about?
People must lose themselves, lacking their bearing.
My home only just dwarfs a double-glazed rabbit-hutch.
Morven, my flatmate, shoots Nazis all day.
Our signing-on booklets affirm we can’t grab at much
privacy. Fag-ash spills out of the tray.
His alarm-clock wakes me at seven each morning,
so I have to stand bashing pans by his bed.
No telly or Internet offers us warning
and newspapers rarely, if ever, are read.
Over and over these floorboards I’d bellow
at cornices, “Why can’t she just be mature?”
as your bulwark of silence engulfed a poor fellow
whose soreness no doctor or layman could cure.
I frothed at the mouth and I schemed like a blaggard,
no more my own captain and sunk by a wall,
as seven miles northwest you shrugged and you swaggered
as though I was someone you didn’t recall,
my counterpart misfit and poetess soulmate
you never can be, since you never can heal
from the sickness that chases you from Reason’s tollgate
and poisons the way that you grow and you feel.
Silence envelops the cause of your silence.
No-one can take in your pill-guzzling truth,
or see why my dreams lie, like dispossessed migrants,
destroyed on the floor with my vanishing youth.
And no-one can see that I can’t just pick lovers,
like everyone else seems to do, off the trees,
because I’m alone in a world full of others
who might as well speak to me in Cantonese.
And no-one considers the loneliness twisting
and burrowing year after year through my brain,
since people would rather give orders than listen
or worry themselves with another man’s pain.
I’m marooned in a vast, uninhabited period
in which you toppled the masts of my mind,
an echoing moment I cannot call really good,
point to or navigate or leave behind.
From “Disoccidented” by Alfie Shoyger: