Smartphones chirp on Mutley Plain.
A beggar thanks me from his blanket
and in the sports bar,
the linoleum gleams. I’m exhausted
from the day, from shouts and laughter
on the bus’s top deck, from drivers
who’ll do anything but let me cross.
Data glances from screens
as I scroll my city,
passing the point where I was born
but not the world that bore me.
In front of me on Tothill Avenue,
a furtive man looks back at me
and looks back twice
as he speaks on his mobile, as if
I’d been sent there to follow him.
He veers into the forecourt
of a used car showroom and I pass him,
making sure that I don’t catch his eye.
I can’t decipher his words
and the script, in any case, compels me
to proceed to the Co-op,
pick up some beers and cannelloni,
carry them home as my shoulder throbs
and my stomach aches. Ten hours away
and I’m back to switch on the microwave
and let the news soak into my skull.

The mundane devours me. It is the fabric
that shields my brain from the void
and the strangeness of my death.
Take it away and I’m unmoored,
floating beneath a scimitar moon,
on the way to perdition or transcendence,
no longer myself or the dregs of myself.
It strangles my inspiration at birth
but I can’t evade it, and tomorrow morning
is already leaning over my shoulder –
my mouth is filling with the taste of oatmeal
and I’m already one day older,
sadder but not much wiser.



Norman Jope

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