in the late london skyline
the real london skyline
the landscape buzzes with the lights of
a hundred rooms
not the billion-dollar investments
nor the phallic financial monuments
not the architect’s stone wonders
nor the flags of palaces
no, in the real skyline
stand a hundred homes
stacked in squares and rising
above that bridge-road.
a hundred mothers
a hundred children
a hundred rooms belonging to
kids you sat next to in dusty assemblies
a hundred kitchens that
could be full of anything at all
maybe some with an excess of plastic bags in
a larger plastic bag
maybe some with new mixer taps
maybe some with letters in a dishevelled pile on the table (have you seen my letter from the hmrc)
maybe others with letters pinned orderly to a cork board (I put up your letter from the hmrc).
in the blocks for hundreds
only a few lights remain switched on
at this ungodly hour.
the mothers and the rest now asleep
the stacks loom dark
but promise life
with the lights left on in kitchens and stairwells and bedrooms.
among them
splitting the sky open like a great
glaring wound
effervescent with hot bubbling blood
stands the great black tomb in the sky
the great black fucking tomb in the sky
the great burnt shame in the fucking sky
it seems bigger, somehow
than the breathing blocks around it
that make so well this skyline that I love
it seems bigger.
this carcass
this ode to death
this ode to greed
should be full of us,
full of life
full of joy and sadness and ambivalence and
shit dinners and good dinners and irritation and
nights in front of the tv and
parties that go on too long and
noisy upstairs neighbours and
neighbours that never make a sound at all.
but instead, now
this ode to greed
this ode to murder
this ode to a community’s hellish grief
this ode to their screams of anguish and injustice
this ode, it
cries it’s message into the city.
and the blistering corruption of death
coats us all.

so pay attention
because we live
pay attention
because they rest in ash
pay fucking attention
and hold onto your humanity
dig yr nails into it’s flesh and don’t ever
let it go
pay attention.
to what happens
pay attention.
pay attention.
(don’t forget them)
pay attention.
pay attention.
and dismantle the chain reaction
of tired decisions that
lead to the destruction of our humanity
pay attention.
and don’t
you ever fucking forget them
don’t you ever
forget how they rest in our skyline
pay attention.
pay attention.



she won’t tell me her name
her eyes roll from
side to side when I ask
so I ask her what
names she likes
and she says amber
so amber is her name now.
she likes brooke too, with an e
or saffron because
she loves ab fab, though
it’s been a good fucking while
since she’s watched the telly.
she left home at thirteen or
fourteen, for a bloke
she doesn’t tell me much about
him, but she says she
thought they would marry
for a little while
then she got hard on the e’s
and lost
where she was for a little while
she asks me for a cigarette and
a cold drink
I sit with her by the bars for hours
she keeps her nails clean
but her hair is thin and
she has no back teeth
amber, you are
so intelligent, I tell her
and she laughs and
then adrian passes by
with half a spliff and she
tells him to share
she’s not interested in
him though, only in me
she makes me feel
like I am the centre of
the universe
she could be so angry
but she isn’t
she wanted to be an air
hostess when she was young
(I wonder, how young
because although she is
grey from the london air,
her soul doesn’t seem old)
she likes her doctor
he used to give her the valium
before she messed up
the script
and he tells her not to
sleep by the tube vents
because she’s giving herself
carbon monoxide poisoning
but she’s cold
and there are blokes everywhere else
she doesn’t sleep anyway
not for long
amber, I say
you are 
so full of
stories and imagination
she’s never been in trouble,
bar once
when she stole from a shop to
get arrested so she could
get a probation officer to help her
with getting a giro
they didn’t help her
but she got free coffee and a bed in the station
I have to go at 2am
but she won’t let me
leave without giving me
tobacco wrapped in a
I go to my bed and bemoan
that I’ve been too lazy to
buy fruit
and she sleeps by the vent
breathing in poison
life is so fucking unfair
I am sorry you have to be cold
I am sorry that dirty man stole your new jacket
and made it stink
when can I see you again, amber?
I promise I’ll buy you
another jacket



as she is lowered
the swaying
undulating heat
of the underground cavern
she breathes deeply
the smell of hot metal
and foot soldiers,
and asks
is this
my home?

she asks
is this my home?
where is my home?
does it matter
at all?
is home some
abstract feeling
of childhood safety nets
that dissipate into
nothing, with age?
we lose our homes
and gain
weathered lines,
crow’s feet at the eyes?

she stands by
the quiet beggar
with his whispered
pleas for help
and change
he knows where home
could be.
perhaps one so
much more lost than her,
could share the secret.

she cries
out in the night
for that great thing.
home is nowhere
for anyone
she realises,
a thought of comfort.
home is inside
their hearts,
not their things or their castles.
she knows this,
she knows this.

and so her mother says
get to work
on your little heart,
my girl.