Saturday, South of the River by Fran Lock

It is night, and in the brittle light of offies, boys
whose breath is spring’s green acme, sing their
cannabinol ballads to the girls from up the Hill.
And we are vixens, agreeably degraded in our
leopard-print and longing; dressed for the halcyon
burlesque of a long weekend. Night is best, far
from football’s ritual milieu; Millwall, wilting
gloom of cafés, foodbank faces tuned to pique.
Night belongs to swaggery, flatteries, the slink
and thrum of bodies. Everything is lovely. We
feel no pain. Busses tumble up to Morden, passing
front gardens waxing belatedly festive: dead tree
in its bandolier of busted lights; plastic Santas
stooped against the dark brick sides of  houses
like peeping Toms. We fly by churches; shuttered
pubs, blind and beggared, lagged in tatty post-war
mourning. And a derelict bungalow, where net
curtains blow through broken windows.
A spooky feeling steals the spine. Grab me by
my sweating hand; press the bell and leg it to
the Northern  Line. We are going all the way.
To city walls, sabretooth with scaffold; to
brace against a storm of noise, vibrate in
basements to vintage din. We are alive,
and far from collective dread, the workday
streets both rank and traipsed. And we know
it will come, daylight drilled into council
tenancies; migraine slicing our brains
like limes. Not yet, though. Please, not yet.
Another dim and slangy day, where
morning innovates exhaustions, from the dog
park and the job fair. Not yet, though, please.
Thought’s slow wattage recoils at this:
the drably freelance week, where grief comes
on like a sneezing fit, and the fully developed
form of face is scream.


Fran Lock is a sometime itinerant dog whisperer and author of two poetry collections, ‘Flatrock’ (Little Episodes, 2011) and ‘The Mystic and the Pig Thief’ (Salt, 2014). Her work has appeared in various places, most recently POETRY, and The Poetry Review. She is the winner of the 2014 Ambit Poetry Competition, and the Out-Spoken Poetry Prize 2015. Her poem ‘Last Exit to Luton’ came third in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.


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