Bethnal Green . . .
. . . is no longer as lively, as green
as those evenings when for a solitary step,
Memory is a desert, she takes us
to the dust of construction sites, a broken trail of
bricks and Banksies, hiding on the corner wall.
Real estate climbs, a slow growl, the building stairs
sprawling with graffiti. The embers glow – this night
Tea bars, plush flush, replace frozen samosas
sitting on the pharaoh’s pyramid
in the ramshackle shop with the television above.
But the Minar is like us, it stays where we are.
The fish curry is still the same – the same tangy taste
of home, the lash of Ma’s tongue,
and that photograph on the wall – the crowded train
rushing in a blur through rice fields, waves of gold and green,
is a Turner painting.
A sign promises to send money
in seconds – the time it takes for you to remember me
Your smartphone sings familiar
though I am no longer the apple of
those lovely brown eyes.
Things are down these days, but they will pick up.
They always do.
In the meantime, we wait
for fresh orders and crowded afternoons,
we wear the dusk of sorry news –
gunfire in other streets, other cities.
in the silence of our kitchens, simmering,
that nothing must take us down,
nothing that greed ever blessed.
none of that will ever reach us –
this sanctuary, this shuttle of weaves,
this breeze . . .
I saw him clear as yesterday,
my old teacher, pockmarked with time.
He was asking about rents, the old survival instinct.
His daughter-in-law, heavy with tomorrow, hushed me.
She said the old printer was gone,
the living room where time flowed like easy pennies.
A maid stole what was left – tools and trinkets,
things to plough and furrow the mind.
I said I worked nearby, but there too,
the rents were shooting up the stars