Leyton! Town beside the Lea,
that gulfy Saxon-Dane frontier
King Alfred fished in, catching tea-
bags, jars, old condoms, cans of beer.
Oh, Leyton Town! My parents’ birthplace,
and that of the cake-stuffed gaffer
of the silver screen, old Hitchcock.
The biggest psychos on the earth’s face
couldn’t break you, no Luftwaffe
turned you desert. So then, which cock,
which shaky member growing hairier
described you as “a Muslim area”?
Some bridge-bombing imam, some penis.
No doubt this makes me an extremist.
But I’m not one to show respect
to disrespect, or tolerate
intolerance. Politics isn’t correct
to force us to exonerate
projectors of shite just because they are foreign,
ignorant cunts for the sake of appeasing
bourgeois imperial guilt. I would rather
pluck my harp and wear my sporran,
so “Goodbye, Leyton!” I said, breezing
into a town with more than half a
political brain, to fair Bristol, where anarchists
(proper left-wingers instead of the shallowest
limp-wristed weasel-faced accentless craven
liberals) amass round the banks of the Avon.
And Clare, my pagan freegan friend
with dreadlocks, broomsticks, spell-books too,
who’d showed me how squatters thrive and fend,
who’d made me do ketamine in Kathmandu,
was conducting a funeral for her pet rodent,
Michael, ancient white-furred brother
of long-dead, buried, black-furred Jackson,
an incense-burning sombre moment
as nine of us stood holding hands with each other,
chanting, as one big hippy klaxon,
“Nibbly bottoms!” It was beautiful,
my love towards Clare and her rats irrefutable.
I’d carried one home in a boot made of rubber
when her boyfriend destroyed her rat-cage just to snub her.
That day we returned to where Clare called her home,
a minuscule-toiletted, crepe-paper-starred,
nursery which Clare found hard
to share with an Arabic fellow named Toumi
who the girls found not so spartan,
found slimier than an axolotl.
Our obligation, then, was gloomy:
to kick him out the kindergarten.
He waved a Pinot Grigio bottle,
yelling “Allah! To the death!” at the gathering
of squatters who watched as the walls took a battering,
“Get off my property!” was shouted,
glass was shattered and mental health doubted.
So that was the last we all saw of a gent
who played with his penis while chatting away
to ladies he thought, being white, were intent
on sucking cock. He thought I was gay.
And the negative energy carried on bubbling
through Bristol’s bohemian quarters as violence
exploded in petrol and bottles and truncheons.
The underpaid, overcharged people were struggling
against the state’s forked tails and tridents
and the grasping way that it malfunctions.
The finest activists in squatterdom
flustered the riot police, and fair clobbered ‘em.
I needed to run, and be rather gymnastic,
past broken glass and melting plastic.
The next day, outside my old squat,
the house that triggered the unrest,
across the Cheltenham Road from what,
before graffitied boards were pressed
up against its sunken window,
was once a superfluous supermarket,
policeman and squatter were laughing together.
This moment was a state of limbo
but I stood there imagining all was on target,
quixotically wishing that this was forever,
offered a cackling sergeant some ketamine
and wept at how the law is fettering
brothers shot from the same gun-barrel.
The sergeant’s a squatter in shiny apparel.
Our neighbours complained to the cops about us,
complained that we didn’t pay rent and we sat
on our roof. So I kicked up a lager-fuelled fuss
and strutted round the roof and spat
that the neighbours were Daily Express-reading wank-toads,
strutted shouting “Communism
is God’s way!” until two coppers
turned up smiling and bearing vanloads
of things with which to put me in prison,
so I stopped. And then, armed with a crowbar, bolt-croppers
and glitter, Clare and her sister went scampering
up a cottage chimney, tampering
with tiles, locks and electric showers
as I kept guard outside for hours.
This cottage whose carpet I used for a bed
among the sawdust and dead wasps,
whose doorways make you duck your head,
that for three hundred winter frosts
had stood, the birthplace of a poet,
Tom Chatterton, the first Romantic
some reckon, inspirer of Wordsworth, of Shelley,
Goethe, Pushkin, all or so it
would seem (if that’s not sycophantic)
of modern verse, stands by a smelly
honking highway, concrete offices
where business gods are made of novices,
a hotel and the biggest casino in Bristol
where money is lunged at and grabbed by the fistful.
We made this cottage our home like the far-
from-respectful, uncivilised, vulgar, profane,
dehumanised scum we undoubtedly are,
driving decent folk insane
with our squalidly squatterly squabbly behaviour,
decent wealthy decent pillars
of decency who pay their taxes.
Clare! My best friend! My near-saviour,
who’d rescued me from all these bullshit-drillers,
these true-blue pricks, our red and black axes
raised to the eternal firmament,
Clare! Our bond was deep and permanent,
it stretched through centuries, generations,
countless previous incarnations.
Clare! You’d led me by the hand
from the filth of normal life
where people’s hearts are bags of sand
and everybody’s tongue’s a knife,
and shown me the magic invisible workings
of all of the cosmos’s mind-shaking beauty
I’d never before even slightly been able
to feel or conceive of. Screw Richard Dawkins!
There’s something meaningful and mighty
whispering through life in an indistinct garble,
through us, Clare, in all of our dances through squatterdom,
stood by the fireplace of old Thomas Chatterton,
staring at clouds on a Nepalese mountain
or a chauvinist waving a bottle and ranting.
Back at the nursery the very next day,
the noble feminist you are,
you told me that I couldn’t stay
at the Chatterton cottage because (burn your bra,
sister!) you wanted your squat to be women-
only, wanted two vagina-
bearing friends of yours who hadn’t
lifted a toe in assistance to live in
the cottage instead of your faithful old china
(that’s me by the way) and I shouldn’t feel saddened
‘cause I could instead go and live in a factory
with no electricity or satisfactory
plumbing, and this was a selfless, resplendent
decision to render me more independent.
“Fuck off, Clare, you’re full of shit!
You’ve screwed our friendship up again!”
I said, and packed my bags to quit
old Bristol town and join the men
back home in London, true and loyal
friends, real friends I know would never
evict me from a Georgian cottage.
Stoke Newington! Your curious soil
has swarmed with Jews, it seems, forever,
the place to buy a kosher sausage,
and as you grow trendier, rougher and scarier,
no Jew calls you “a Jewish area”.
No Jew desires to take us over,
subjecting our land to the rule of Jehovah.
Next door to the Jews there live the Turks,
who Germans call “replacement Jews”,
“Ersatzjuden”. Here there lurks
the finest kebab-meat a fellow could choose.
Next to the Turks lives my mate Jason,
a bespectacled quiffy-haired open-hearted
Cockney Sri Lankan (of Tamil extraction)
who never puts an insincere face on,
whose bedroom is constantly silently guarded
by a badger whose glass case confirms its inaction.
He’d write and sing songs of his Grandad’s incontinence,
pigeons and trashy culture’s dominance,
and turned down a lucrative boy-band position
‘cause he wasn’t a twat, but a proper musician.
In Jason’s back garden there stood a marquee,
a mass of tarpaulin he’d randomly found
in his loft and put up in the shade of a tree.
So my plan was to hammer some pegs in the ground
and live in a tent in a tent in a garden
in a ghetto in London in mystified wonder
at how I had led such a silly existence
and whether the sudden diversions would sharpen
or satisfy partly my deafening hunger
as banquets and orgies are thrown in the distance,
my deafening hunger for fertile autonomy
from the great wilderness of mediocrity
that makes up this shallow and cash-obsessed planet
in all of its towers of Perspex and granite.