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On Living in an Area of Manifest Greyness and Misery
London is a vast ocean in which survival is not certain.

Essex Road and the unluckily named Balls Pond Road
are areas of manifest greyness and misery.

from London: the Biography, Peter Ackroyd
I sleep high on the bird’s nest.
Trucks and lorries shake the house
and make the bricks tremble,
roaring tidal waves rock the bed
and put me to sleep.
There are odd wrecked Georgian houses
beached between tyre shops and takeaways.
Sometimes people are murdered.
Police sirens shriek up and down all day
like seagulls chasing sandwiches.
On the second floor,
we can look right into the 38
and see all the people
but we think they can’t see us.
And we can jump on the 38 ourselves,
sail on the top deck
down to Bloomsbury and Victoria.
Our walls are stuffed with horsehair,
on stormy nights we hear the horses gallop.
Like us, they don’t want to leave.
The ghost of a cat lives next door.
Young black drivers play hip-hop and dance hall,
when they stop it’s a five-minute party
and you never know when it might happen.
The pink-haired squatters dance topless
on the concrete roof when it’s hot.
John Ball’s pond lies under our back gardens,
the shades of his cows low at full moon.
But it’s the roll of traffic
that makes it more of an ocean
especially the sound of rushing wheels
when it rains,
and the uniformed Catholic children
slip along the wet pavement
like blue fish
swimming down the Balls Pond Road.