Sunday, November 3, 2013


                            —for Robert Peake

Last time I was in London, I hated the squalor.
Only when I crash-landed in a little used parlour—
decked in clashing cabbage rose wallpaper, 
chintz and bric-a-brack, starched antimacassars
covering the striped silk-covered horsehair sofa, 
as we so carefully perched, slurping our tea—
only then did I feel at ease. We were strangers,
distant relatives, my two girlfriends and I.

As I wandered across Hammersmith Bridge, 
I spied a pearly king all in his Sunday finery,
top hat & coattails adorned in wheels & crosses
made of flashies—mother-of-pearl buttons.
Reflections of a glinting sea & secret shells.
No hippie, the old man had the sense to ignore
the American urchin in the land of Cockaigne.

The river hissed strange, dank secrets.
And the clouds over Hammersmith, 
seethed and roiled over the Thames. 
Water seeking the ablution of water.
I was trapped in a painting by Frangonard, 
or perhaps by Watteau. Bucolic & melancholic,
I was a teenager, far from home & homesick.

Whenever I find a real button in the street
I save rare coinage for the pearly king.
Closest I ever get to London these days 
is Gatwick Airport, but your poems 
they make me long for an imagined place 
to welcome me home with frail arms
held as wide as the lumbering sky.


PAD Write a “the last time I was here” poem. Imagine you’re returning to a spot (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.): Is it a good thing? Bad thing? What did you leave behind (if anything)? What’s there to welcome you back (again, if anything)?

FIRST DRAFT: Being a country bumpkin from the wilds of West Marin, I hated London. Only when I landed in the distant rellies' seldom used parlour—replete with clashing cabbage rose wallpaper, bricabrack and a silk covered horsehair sofa, in Hammersmith, did I feel at ease. As I walked across Hammersmith Bridge, a Cockney Pearlie King was striding down the sidewalk. I followed him, and marvelled at his topcoat tails covered in fantastic designs and crosses done in mother of pearl buttons. And the clouds over Hammersmith, the Thames. Oh, the clouds, they were marvellous. I was 19. First time away from home. Closest I ever get to London these days is Gatwick Airport but Robert's poems make me want to give it another go.

Note bene: many of my poems come from Facebook posts. One reason why I'm so active on Facebook is because it triggers surprising writing prompts. Fitting them onto PAD writing prompts is an artifice. But that really doesn't matter, because the poem must stand alone in the end.

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