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Once you swam in me

I would hold you
as you slept
and keep you from drowning

When you woke
I would often pull you
to my depths
A mounting dull roar
in your ears
A faint glimmer above
as you gurgled
through a whirlpool
of salt air
I opened
for you

You would sometimes cling
to passing driftwood
But with tidal inevitability
I would envelop you
Still holding
a rough plank
or worn bough
or empty-handed
you would slowly
slowly sink into me

Once you swam
heedless of fatigue
toward a white spot
toward a bobbing brightness
toward a pontoon
I had torn
from a large boat
Grasping at the remains
of its metal frame
you clambered atop it
And there
I could no longer have
my fill
of you

You assembled a nest
of flotsam
You now know
every piece of wood
every scrap of plastic
intimately
It comforts you
that there are only
so many ways
to arrange them

Do not forget
that my fish
feed you
That my currents
determine your course
and can dash you
against sharp
black
rocks
however you may toil
with your salt-worn paddle

Do not forget
it is my surface
that shimmers
with reflections
of lush land
that turns out
to be nothing
but waves
in me
whose bitter spray
you taste
as they break

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A habit
I had hoped
shed
sees me return
again
to an uneven mattress
bartering
dreams for hours
of a life foreswarn
the remainder lived
fewer
forlorn

Leaden legs
and bleary eyes that
deadened
peer at leaden skies
through a rain
specked pane of glass
Autumnal curtains
gently pulse
and endless
cars and people pass

Now in so few ways inured
to the soporific haze
of a dream-leeched
day endured
let alone the
grimy little
hours that
settled
gathered days
months that piled
heaped a year of stolen youth

A life that barely
filled half
a shared
room
its white walls
crumpled bed-linen
and radiator

It’s small
now
I sit
I examine the suture
over the void
that was my future

This fast food stand
stands fast
against a bucolic backdrop
on the edge of one of the jaws
of suburbia’s pliers
that clasp a wedge of countryside
It stands in the corner of a parking lot
beside a pub
from which drunken karaoke
sometimes bumbles up
to my bedroom window

Sluggish and gummy-eyed
he shuts the side-door
against the cold
fills the trays with salad
turns on the grill
It warms up
Buds and shoots emerge
amid chirping
above scurrying
and tentative foraging

This fast food stand
stood fast
against my gaze
against days
and days of recession
nights of depression
Frigwell Kebabs Burgers & Chicken
The sign is backlit
competing with the street-lights
The nearby pair
of pregnant glass hemispheres
holding incandescent foetuses
hung from concave black cones
on tapering triangular brackets

This fast food stand
stands
between me
and the distant
glimmering rows of lights
onto which
I project my hopes
of a me-shaped vacancy
somewhere
in the dynamism of London
Though I know they are just
part of another suburb
perhaps solid and clear
to its own fools
staring out of their own windows
at distant lights

The foliage behind the stand
absorbs the unrelenting sun
with far more grace
than the people
The year-round orange of fake tan
takes on a reddish hue
as it masks sunburn
but even in
this sweltering heat
there is demand for
sweating meat

This fast food stand
that stood fast
during my year
of relative poverty
and effective isolation
waiting for an EU passport
punctuated by threats
from the university debt collector
will stand fast
as I whittle away
at some project
or other
eventually getting a half-respectable job
and giving up on this
art and writing
malarkey

A grey sheet of cloud hangs overhead
He lifts a white sheet of metal
to reveal a compact kitchen
and form a small awning
above the gathering schoolchildren
They yap their orders
wait
and squirt condiments
into polystyrene trays
Rain pools on the flat roof
A boy in a hooded tracksuit
frenetically paces the tarmac
mobile in hand
This fast food stand
stands
soggily abandoned
and dimly visible
as the night-time branches above
sway
and caress a street-light

This fast food stand
will stand fast
until
the gradual erosion of civil liberties
impinge on anyone’s right
to get pissed after work and have a kebab
Until we are all palpably powerless
and stripped of all privacy
every now and then
we who feel it approaching
can enact
our habitual ritual of contrition
and sign another petition

Spent
The final ragged leaf
clings to the damp tarmac
The sinuous skeletal products
of an unhalting pursuit of nourishment
are naked
Steam exhaled
and exuded
by grey meat
intermingle
as a single
chip slips
onto dirty slush

This fast food stand
will stand fast
as the finite
runs out
and more of us slip
below the poverty line
The government suppresses
a desperate and angry multitude
The world is overpopulated
You wish you’d never copulated
fucked
You’re not even stricken with grief
that instead of chicken and beef
the stand now serves textured human protein
The ultimate monoculture

It has fled
Not far
Outside the greasy window
It dances with empty electric light

Nocturnal cloak flowing
Motley of bricks
Texture of tarmac
Motion a breeze

It throws a grinning glance
darting hither and thither
my eyes an elegy
as the strand grows more tenuous