after 31 years,
I never thought I’d see the day
that we’d go our separate ways,
My first breath taken
on your Hammersmith road,
A Charing Cross c-section,
I arrived wearing blood
and screaming for affection,
I returned 15 years later,
but on reaching reception,
I walked in a different direciton,
to pick up cherry flavoured proteciton.
A year later I returned with a skin infecton,
On a night out, I’d become a ‘cigarettte sister’
with a burn, resulting in a septasimic blister.
I laughed with you, arm in sling,
walking through Hammersmith broadway –
the place I’d start each day.
Climbing down its stairs to get beneath you,
and ride lines green and blue,
teenage eyes dry with sleep
adjusting to the white glare,
I felt safe under there,
your stagnant air.
We were best friends, invincible, two of a kind,
You’d show me tiny roads on which I could hide,
and smoke cigarettes near my school,
allowing me to think I was grown up and cool.
We’d sit in cafes till late, drinking tap water,
until dad appeared – ‘do you have my daughter?’
Those were our years.
When mum and dad went away,
I’d beg them to let me stay,
wrapped in your arms,
listening to your heart beating fast,
I was addicted to you.
I couldn’t be away from you for long,
I yearned to be back in your throng.
To be back on the top, front row seat of
the 94 bus, swinging around Shepherd’s Bush,
past the colourful fabrics and betting shops,
vibrating with its sigh and cough
as it pulled into stop after stop.
I wanted all your noises,
all your dirt,
You were always filthy –
chicken bones, chip papers,
squashed cans of special brew,
pavements freckled with gum,
and then your grime
would intensify in the sun.
You were filthy and exciting,
You’d take me by surprise,
with something to fill my eyes,
each tube stop a different world,
where newness would unfurl,
The air was thick with you,
I could feel you against my chest,
crawling up my neck,
hot against my face,
I wanted to breathe you all in,
we had our own little secrets,
which I knew you wouldn’t tell,
You were always synonymous
and that suited me,
I felt fee.
But then, I stopped feeling free,
Suddenly I felt trapped.
It wasn’t you, it was me,
I am not saying you didn’t change,
They changed you,
They made your centre a Russian playground,
Giant houses sitting empty,
while the streets filled with the homeless,
Old shops and restaurants wiped out
replaced by chains,
hovering in the sky,
building more and more,
that people can’t afford,
I couldn’t understand why?
You got so clean cut –
brunches, yoga, ‘work spaces’
I stopped being able to afford you,
to sit beneath you,
Your oyster card
bank balance scarred.
I used to think you were
beautiful, brave, exciting
I used to think I’d never tire of you,
that I’d die with you in my lungs,
But somehow I lost you,
You became a stranger to me,
My ears became hypersensitive to your cries –
your sirens, the late night screams,
the tube’s screech and the buses roar,
I couldn’t take them anymore.
I started to hate your anonymity,
I hated the way people put their heads down
or looked the other way,
I wanted people to smile
and say ‘have a nice day’
I felt dirty,
I wanted to rub you off.
After 31 years I wanted to rub you off.
I wanted the sky, the sea, the trees,
I wanted growth.
I didn’t want your toxic breath,
I wanted air.
I had to look elsewhere.
You couldn’t do it – you couldn’t give me what I longed for,
But please know London – I couldn’t have loved you more.