London: a single word to contain everything.
Neither document nor fiction
But bigger than both:
A secret prison and a memory mansion
Temple of distraction, Museum of museums
Sacred monstrosity of unhid, unruly heart
Delicious hotbed uncouth of malevolence and horror
Whose evil face smoothed by hypocrisy achieves a
Dark malignant splendour and a cold radiance.

You. You, for whose survival innocence must be destroyed
Who hardens and sharpens all that remains:
Hostile, defiant, a deathless, blind magnet unyielding
A ceaseless monster clock beating time
A greasy blood bucket
In your vicious paradise all is cloth to unsleeping scissors.

Here I ride at anchor watching
The tidal changeling churn and thresh
The moiling shapeshifter swing and sway
The pulsing octopus city making bold for the kill
The zip-zing switch and scatter of little fish
The torrential traffic rush
The trembling trains moving off
The lurching buses returning
The twitching fingertips turning pages
The sudden swerve of an impatient pavement-goer
And the lurch prompted by a loose paving stone.
Now I cut loose

A perplexing prolix paradox
Up and doing.

The great baffler going all ways at once
Breathless, restless, tireless
Blasting and blessing blindfolded
Nothing to be trusted.

Home to countless
Unique and private cosmologies
Each unknown to each.

Dextrous deviant
Much-tentacled and a long time cooking
So much ink spilt over the impossibility of your
Self-digesting mungrell banquet
Yet accident ever varies
Discontinuous tangle miscarried and with
Muddle and delusion lost in the swell and confusion
Surging torrents of melted riddle and contradiction
Mix and mingle in blazing theatres
Jumbled signs seek to clarify dust, mud and scaffold
Meanwhile, simmering and forgotten:
The raw and remaindered kick
Wild and loose before seething mirrors.

Dim wild angels with filthy wings
Ditch drinkers
Denizens of the dark streams
Mutterers in tatters
Those who fade because nobody sees them
The rejected and condemned
Lepers of the enhanced city
Thronged on a melting shore
All shattered eyes and wrecked smiles
Princes of ruin
Drinking their hell

Rogues and angels
Hoods and barons
Two young men leaving a mosque holding hands
A madman, shouting drunk on the morning bus
Doom-watchers scanning the skies
Loafers and squanderers
The privileged froth with their necessary
Runners, fetchers and door-openers
A young girl blowing a giant, rippling
    bubble down Mare Street
A shoeless shaman walking his dogs toward
    Arnold Circus.

Their passions, their frailties
And frequent glories
All watched, boxed and labelled
By the sifters, spooks and snoops.

On East Finchley High Street
A homeless man
Leans back like a dirty black Buddha
Magnanimous in a too tight sweater
Smiling at the sun
Then suddenly up and galloping
Arms wheeling after a pigeon
As above a dead one dangles
From plastic spikes
As others potter oblivious
Or unbothered.

Finally the dead alive, still giving it the big licks, the only living,
Only real, and we the apparitions, the spectres, curious beasts on
Tender ground.

Scarcely the word is soul perhaps for such
As might be seen on this aloof
    empty moon
Invincibly impersonal
Into whose silent depths we may disappear
The vanished and the vanishing
    side by side unseen
Whose still, blind windows are both
    prize and penalty
Museums of miscarried hope
Where the stricken languish
Poured into deep, dark, indifferent pockets.

A thousand assorted nowheres
Become one giant nowhere in particular.
A deathless enigma consumed by impetuous fictions.

     Nick Scammell 2009