I’d like to report something suspicious.
Round here everyone is suspicious.
There are signs on the street that tell me that thieves
are operating in this area.
Courtyards hum and buzz and ping
with bulbs that tolerate no grey areas,
no shady characters,
no buskers, no beggars, no loitering kids.
This city’s heart is steel and glass
a clock that tutts impatiently,
a metronome that somebody sped up.
This city vibrates to a power ballad
and we crowd in like a stadium of fanatics
swaying back and forth in time
offering our flame.
Our eyes stained by coffee cups
Our lives burning away like Rizla
congealing in the spittle of caffeine and petrol
as we try to make something stick
in London, a well tongued ear;
where salivating muscles queue and slug
through escalators and beeping turn styles,
bowing their heads for the taste of life;
Take me to your grimy places London,
your sweaty crevises
Disappear me up the crack of a Hackney’d alley
lay me in the arms of a pregnant shadow,
rescue flowers from the jaws of a bin.
Give me tongues that I don’t know how to dance with.
Give me music who’s grammar I don’t understand.
Give me what sprouts from the pavement cracks,
that Portuguese Janis Joplin
beating her heart to a small wooden box.
She has only two string and no amplification
But she is bigger than the billboards above her head.
The free newspaper applaud her as they dance at her feet
she is singing for me in the key of B here
and she is the one thing in this city that is real and true.
Give me spray cans with the guts to express themselves
into the belly of dispossessed buildings.
Give me vibrating particles under suppression
waiting to spit bars, waiting to sing rainbows.
Because the smaller the space
the greater the pressure.
I’d like to report something suspicious.
Maria came in search of work
She’s 21, a tongue that struggles
with the landscape of the English language.
She found part time work serving sushi to suits
and a home in an empty building
that was left to rot indefinitely,
’til the owners decided that the price of the land
ripened beneath her feet.
At two am in an industrial estate,
Just beyond the drops of yellow street light
veining the window screen of a van
a homeless building winks seductively
through a partially opened window
inviting Maria to find some meaning
in the confused moments and forgotten words
of a city trying to speak glass.
Maria’s been evicted six times this year,
and arrested for wearing a roof on her head.
She files her conviction with her unspent degree
Because the law keeps trying to contain her
in the vertical bars of the word ‘illegal’.
I’d like to report something suspicious Miss
Kevin never raises his hand in English class.
He just stares at the drizzle spitting bars down the drain
to the beat of a clock that wags its finger.
Kevin is a broken exclamation mark
who wants no place in the sentences
his school uses to contain him.
He suffers from a deficit in chlorophyll.
His neighbourhood’s obese with concrete and noise
Mum has three kids and only one pair of hands
to weigh up priorities of heating and eating
the pre-pay gas meter keeps on ticking
and the mould keeps climbing up the walls
The sign on her face bans loud noise and ball games
So Kevin and his friends kick bass lines at bus shelters
and loiter under street lights spitting grime onto the tarmac.
They find patches of wilderness inside their heads by ignoring
the signs that say keep off the grass.
I’d like to support something suspicious officer.
There are pockets of our society that are not just broken
but frankly sick
allowed to feel that the world owes them something.
and it does
Here’s something for those in the giant glass bar graphs
trying to chart our ascent to extinction.
Here’s something for the people with a sense of entitlement
who want the world handed to them on a plate:
Fuck your chain gangs of Starbucks and Sushi
fuck your gated communities with broken surnames
your cameras that point at us rudely
and tall walls that blankly stare
Fuck your metal gates that cross their arms
your Georgian facades that grit their teeth,
you security lights that persecute shadows,
and your armies of guards and dogs.
Fuck every minute of your giant clock
Holding us back with both its arms
Gripping us by our wrists
and hurling us back into offices
We will abandon ourselves in public places
without being removed or destroyed
Give us some time and give us some space.
Give us a place to play, spit bars and skate
or just loiter on roadsides slinging unlicensed melodies
at passers bye for spare change.
Give us some change.
Let all of this surplus capital
spill into these empty spaces
like a bass-bin flooding a warehouse dance floor.
We are the squatters, the boaters, the punks, the ravers,
the school leavers who want more than to feed the GDP,
the poets, the jugglers, the painters, the actors
the people who like to stare at clouds
The Polish, the Spanish, the students, the cleaners
the single mums on housing lists,
the guardians, the renters, the sofa surfers
the nurses stranded in BnB’s
We serve your sushi, drive your taxis,
medicate your babies and fight your wars.
We are the bands of loitering kids, and tomorrow
Your sons will have our faces printed on their T Shirts.
Your daughters will dance in festival fields
to rhythms we constructed
and BPMs that we manufactured.
Because we the margins hold up this profit
and we the tongues cause these erections.
We the flesh beneath the hard hats and steel caps
and we need these buildings so give us some space back.
Because without an ‘Us’ there is no ‘You’
and without what we do you have no business
round here, where almost everyone
is becoming suspicious.
Pete the Temp
As performed at the Election Night Special Performance of Heathcote Williams’ Poetry Army at Canada Water Culture Space, London, May 7th as part of the Poetry Can F*ck Off Evening.