Top up as You Go
I arrived in an earlier version,
a zombie walling the tunnel.
Tussauds was waiting. Come on,
Tube, my mum said. The Circle circled,
a string of prayer beads. We changed.
Now there’s a whisper in my cranium.
Our ancestors, the late Victorians,
thought up a dream map of dots.
Here was the Bull, the Rat, the Fox.
Now Stuart the pit pony, in form,
is dragging the soft drinks down the aisle.
His uniform’s short on style.
The labour market, let me state,
is a dim sum menu, a newsfeed
of boxes to cross: the crispy seaweed
of rapid Lithuanian waiters,
the black bean rice of Cantonese chefs.
Shrimp dumplings an excellent investment:
Please vacate first class
if you don’t hold a ticket for this seating.
Everyone can shop at World Duty Free.
Thank you for using the fast lane.
Por que no funciona este escaner de mierda?
Do not walk outside this area –
below us, condensing polders.
Above us, the Himalayan vapours.
The cabin dehumidified of labour.
Let me look over your shoulder:
Defence and the Power to Change.
Everything’s normal and strange.
from Hellenic Post
July was ajar, as we picked and packed for the half-price sales.
Rolls Royce was sanding the sky, our road a Yangtze of catalysers,
the natural gas a necklace of squeaking beads on rails,
our geolocations headed for spots where the shops had been shaking.
We’d swallowed heroic guides, the house’s doubtful epics –
instructions for cats and ants, and action in case of earthquakes –
and were saddling up to gallop to horse burials of elite classes,
to public space the airy homes of the Oil Merchant Group
and free time the prehistoric cemeteries. Had I seen my glasses?
They were mired in talks with a Balkan language; stashed on top
were goggles and shades, my disinterred clothes, a torch, important
phone numbers, trainers, sandals and a single flip-flop.
Call me a locust crawling towards a huddle of vases –
their torn-up graphic novels with black and red javelin figures:
I was ready to leap, to wave a stylus of bone, advance,
invasive beast on an island where hemp bushes deal in blooms,
though the Rebel Club would be closed, and we’d miss the cult activity
of Freak Greeks with shorn heads and full-chest tattoos.
We were steering towards an Aegean of myths, the Stuttgart Hellenes,
streetlamps captioned PAOK, politicians graffitied PASOK,
the buses you pay to get off, towards beans, sardines and aubergines.
Awaiting the dawn of applied metallurgy, starting to pray,
for a trip of two thousand K begins with a single bus on time,
as the crows were heckling Apollo, I looked up at the active display.
The Powers had slunk back to help
in the Balkan business: the Brits
behind their blue-shuttered walls,
Germans in hillside developments.
They’d learnt to love the olive oil,
their image and language beamed in
from satellite to satellite market
beside the cactus garden,
where the locals yap and yelp.
We’d seen six sunsets from the wall
of the beach that moonlights as harbour:
bright and hazy, or clear and radiant,
orange and violet, with boats or bats;
the clouds – lit fingers over the hot face.
No gulls: no fish. And inside our nets
a lonesome mosquito sprawled in bed.
A coachload of lads down a ferry aisle,
the ants were attacking Geoffrey Hill
and a history of commerce and trade
in their Bosporus of twigs and leaves.
Transferring scent, mapping their paths
they traversed the flagstone yard,
up the sheer cliffs of the white wall
and into the pink-tiled bathroom.
Quite calmly, not angry at all,
I wielded the spray like Achilles,
and the warriors fell in swathes.
Miffed in the Bismarck Age
that the French had Rome to gaze back on,
the Prussians acquired the Greeks
by consul, rail and trade,
practising penetration pacifique
like a weed in a crack,
in love with the skin and the page.
The cafe pensioners learn
the sea news: it’s shown
in wriggling bags, as mornings stretch
out in sandals and tucked-in shirts
over coffee, the odd cigarettes.
The owner was born in Cologne.
Above them, the monitors burn
with the latest Hellenic Post,
and the cooling system drips
onto the street, the soap suds
flooding the gutter
that drains its way towards
the once daily, now weekly ships
on course for an island coast.
Alistair Noon’s publications include two books published in 2015, The Kerosene Singing (Nine Arches Press) and Surveyors’ Riddles (collaboration with Giles Goodland, Sidekick Books). He lives in Berlin.
Image credit: Andrea Kirkby