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The fields from Islington to Marybone
To Primrose Hill and St John's Wood
Were builded over with pillars of gold
and there Jerusalem's pillars stood.

William Blake

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OUR LADY OF THE TRAFFIC


Written for a celebrated beggar-lady of Hackney whose main strategic modus was to lurk at intersections till traffic became hopelessly congested, then race out into the junction with heart-rending stories and tearful fabrications, shrieking and screaming at the top of her voice. That she was never knocked over and killed on the spot is testament to some kind of supernatural grace...


Black summer tarmac
bubbles in the microclimate.
Conspiracies foam and mumble.

A skeleton appears
racing into a yellow box.
Rubber burns with a scream.

The bone-woman runs out
through blue thoroughfares,
thin skull opening, shrieking:

‘Help! Help! A house-fire.
Grandmother’s in hospital.
Hayley’s sick.’ Verbal props.

A Rolls Royce front-grill
modelled on a Greek temple
silhouettes the fallen goddess.

Down on one knee
in front of the radiator
Our Lady of the Traffic,

Something once, arresting still,
scarecrow with scarlet panties
riding up her crack, whimpers:

‘Help! Help! Fifty pence!
The place burned down last night.’
Please imagine the flames.’

The Magdalen whispers
through rolled-down glass:
‘Grandma’s in so much pain!’

Now tears on hot tar
steam invisibly as silver
slips through a sweaty bra.

She too weeps for a world
gridlocked in bitter smoke
which no one sees.