Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Sleepwalking Soul

Cada cuerpo con su deseo
y el mar el frente.
Cada lecho con su naufragio
y los barcos al horizonte.
- Eugenio Montejo

For a swimmer, making his way into the sea
the waves are a physical reminder of time.
The space between each wave is calculated,
the body carefully positioned to ride over
or glide through each wave. Here time equals action.
The trough of each wave is enjoyed; the heat of the sun,
the coolness of the water, the taste of salt, a yacht seeming
not to move on the horizon, disappearing behind a wave, and the next,
and another, until he emerges triumphant into the tranquility of clear water.

The horizon is one long
stripe of blue, looking back land stretches out
bisecting the blue of the sky and the
blue of the sea and it is here
that the soul begins its drift;
gently and without announcement.

The beach may be empty or it
may appear as a pointillist landscape
dotted with the coloured bags and towels
of other bathers. He will search for his own,
scouring the beach for private landmarks,
tracing the memory of his steps
across the sand down to the shore.

If he manages to locate his towel, it will be far
from where he expected to find it.
The sensation is of a slippage of time.
There are no footprints to mark the journey.
It is as though he has moved between time zones
and though he knows that a day has been lost,
that he must adjust his watch, the body refuses to believe it;
the disjuncture between the reality of place and the sensation of place being too great.

A quiet acceptance washes in.
He can't point to a when or a how but he knows
that a change has occurred over which he has had no control,
or if he had, he has come to realise it too late.

And so he feels the heat of the sun,
the coolness of the water against his skin
and he makes his way, slowly, allowing the waves
to propel him, back toward the beach.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Random Impressions 1

I tried and failed about ten times to write this as one coherent piece so I'm going to list things as a series of jump cuts instead:


The road between Blackhorse road station and Tottenham. I walked along there hoping to see the reservoirs but it was so misty that I couldn't see more than a few metres past the fence. At intervals fishermen and geese appear through the fog.


A bridge over the canal in Tottenham has a plaque explaining that it was built in the first year of the great war. This and the mist makes me think of the poet Edward Thomas. 


Walking past Ghanaian churches hidden amongst the warehouses close to the canal in Tottenham. A taxi driver confirms that the churches are all Ghanaian but that he is Nigerian. Once, when living in Lagos, one of Fela Kuti's wives had been his landlady and he was a regular visitor to 'The Shrine'.


Two ducks swimming in a small stream banked by rubbish.


A yellow tree raining leaves down onto the pavement close to the Lea Bridge roundabout.


The Downs pub has a sign which says that in 1870 the first cycle club in the UK had their inaugural meeting there. Opposite, the Downs are empty, cold, and windswept.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hartham road

Hartham road is a right angle. It is neither perpendicular nor parallel to the almost straight Hillmarton road, which joins Caledonian and Camden road to be the south side of a triangle. Same as Hartham road joins the beginning of Hillmarton road and the end of Hungerford road, which flows into Hillmarton road again forming this time an imperfect quadrangle, only cut in two by a cul-de-sac called Freegrove road.

Hartham road at its beginning from Hilmarton road.
London planes and cherry trees crown the pavements and get dressed and undressed as time goes by. Some of the trunks have eaten the bricks on the fences; they look like gigantic swollen gums breaking through the bricks. Some owners have decided to rebuild the fences a step forward, so you can see - in inverse proportion - the aging of the bricks and the movement of the trees. Some trees even have a private altar so they can preach to the pedestrians walking by. Acacias or black locusts can be seen at some front yards, even an exotic loquat at the upper part of the road. You could also find some palm trees, avocados and olive trees – I have even seen a kentia and a Swiss cheese plant or two, all the latest, of course, through the bay windows of the Victorian Houses, trying to reach out for fresh air. Interesting people, that try to grow tropical plants inside their homes, live at Hartham road. The English always dreaming overseas, beyond the cloud. Imagine their back yards, the secret gardens that could be found at the other side of the gates of moss and screech; the glass ponds, the liquid willows, the stone benches. But let’s go back to the street.

Not much happens at Hartham road apart from the spring and the autumn, bringing both seasonal colors to the dun-bricked street. Time in Hartham road hangs like dried clothes from the line. I remember once having breakfast on a Saturday early morning in front of the kitchen window, the sun already shaving the top leaves of the trees, when I saw a man dressed in night, walking up the street with a severe drunk pace but still maneuvering his mobile phone with one hand. When he got to the house opposite my position, he felt that he needed to urinate – he hesitated around ten seconds and then started to look for his fly with the other hand. When he got to find his penis, he pulled it out to the cold, then opened the fence to the yard without taking his eyes from the little screen, stepped into it and next to the cherry tree, he peed until he was satisfied. It took him the time it took me to finish half of my warm coffee and a bite of my toast, his phone kept him busy all the time. When he finished the piss, he forgot to put back his willy, stepped out of the yard and, leaving the gate opened, continued his walk at the same pace up the street.

I should not skip telling you about the golden light that coats the air in the afternoon from the month of February until early November. The sun rays get lower than the clouds before the sun sets, and transforms the shriveled branches into Chinese silhouettes in the winter, and filters through the green leaves creating a bit of fresh air in the long summer afternoons. And that is a great moment for contemplation.