Try reading the brail of the streets with the barterers of Brixton shouting,
through the smell of Ackie and Saltfish in the markets under the filthy arches
past black faces and blue eyes, that meet and spin in perfect harmony
in oily cafes and the back alleys that simmer in half-light
through the first urban gloamings of the day, light shows
the lollipop lamps and crimson morning and the grey skin of night peeling back
and back and back to show the yawning city with its dreams and its dirt.
Hear the lost wake on Coldharbour Lane, their souls spluttering to life as they traipse down to Ruskin Park puling and moaning and brittle with hues of the blues they suck their special brew through tinny smiles till all the leaves of grass lay down.
To Camberwell, and Greek patisseries that spill urgent babbling voice and the smell of baklava into the road, it mixes with gangland lingo and ‘blud’ and the stench of weed, all awake and alive and harmonious with the constant excitement of violence
past the tortured twisted willow behind St Giles, stoical in the maelstrom
past the blocks, rectilinear catacombs in the sky, lives in limbo bathed in screen light behind St George Cross and washing and flowers.
On and on to Peckham as the day begins to bleed and the fear of the drip drip subterranean horrors into the evening and the night and light shows again
cascades of orange and sharp pricks of white and the thundering wheels of lorries with their head lamps throwing sinister silhouettes high onto brick and through glass.
Then finally to New Cross or Deptford, terror and beauty with sticky feet and barflys cutting the rancid air full of stories and smoke and abandonment, all breathing heavily into the frenzy, iridescent and fleeting as the great leviathan rolls over again to crush another morning.
She was all beige on a winter’s day
crumpled up like paper
a garlic bulb wrapped in gauze
muttering down Rye Lane
her thin white lips fluttering
in the stiff wind.
Stopping outside an estate agent
she drew her tartan trolley
to her side and gazed through the window
at the photos
of the houses
of the flats
of the new socially mobile
of the first time parents
of the dead middle
of the aspiring upwards.
She looked at the streamline kitchens
at the symmetrical living rooms
at the dainty little pitched roves
at the even gravel driveways
at the fresh comforts of the modern
at the gifts given to those who strive.
She stood there
barely five foot tall
plundering the dreams off potential buyers
pillaging all hope of improvement
of a new start
of the next step.
She stood there
for twenty minutes
then she shrugged her shoulders and walked away
dragging behind her the tartan trolley
full to the brim with
About the author
Charlie Hawksfield is a writer and artist whose poetry, fiction and non-fiction has been published in a variety of magazines including Middlebrow, Dial 174, Ariadne’s Thread, The Irish Literary Review and Masque. Charlie grew up in Sussex, but moved to Brixton when he was 20. Charlie writes a lot about the city, especially London, the speed and ferocity of a big city and especially the snatches of tenderness in the rush.