southern nights


the chaotic landscape of a student union bar at midnight; muddy floors covered in the sweet stickiness of cheap vodka, freshers violently hugging, kissing, crying, screaming. and their eyes, incapable of focusing a glazed gaze of oblivion, spin inwards towards the hearty warmth of a soaking red wine-coloured brain, dissolving piece by piece like feta cheese in a water bath.

my friend and I drink doubles, slowly adapting. the boys are all cute teenage hipsters with big lips and curly fringes, dancing awkwardly to a string of Christmas hits and smiling sweetly at nearby sexual subjects. at one point we’re pushed down a flight of stairs. adolescent hormonal turmoil forcing itself down a crowded corridor, bouncer biceps flash past and we fall to the ground, helplessly hitting the floor like two car crash dummies.

London is dressed in a tacky winter nightdress as I make my way home, shining bright but fooling no one, the homeless shaking uncontrollably at the pavements of her very heart. I go from south to north on various empty buses, through the strange, dark streets of Bermondsey. I read the same poem over and over on my phone, but can only memorise the first paragraph. you do not do, you do not do. the calm water of the Thames cut the city in two like a blood-black whip, throwing the icy lights back at my pained eyes as I’m struck by its sudden, spark-like beauty, soon gone.




You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You–

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.