Red Light

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The wet streets are so dark

you have to mount the pavement

with agonizing precision,

flowers dangling from wire baskets, 

dead scatter of leaves,

and the plants like limp chickens

thudding ungraciously to the kerb.

A begonia clings to your shoe.

 

Perhaps this isn’t what you wanted.

Perhaps what you’d hoped 

was to throw yourself out

into an ocean of clean faces

who would sail past stylishly

beneath clouds of straightened hair,

for the throb of their heels 

to tremble up 

through tarmac, fresh rainfall,

through you. Stars buzzing

like streetlamps. Ironed shirts.

Your trousers fray and swing.

 

Instead you find yourself spluttering

into the moon of your fist,

heaped in the passenger seat

of a slow taxi. Scatter pound coins

on the dashboard 

only to slide the rest towards barmen.

You crunch on peanuts and wait. 

 

The blinds tugged down in daylight 

give way to the flutter of late women,

not one of them who you expected

and yet you worship each one

her stale familiarity–

the cheap bra strap

slithering loose from a spaghetti vest,

fling a wet kiss on her neck.

Now she lures you, smiling

through blank cigarette inches–

within hours, heaping your bollocks

into each moisturised palm, 

weighting your hands 

with the swell of her natural breasts.

 

Now you wake in the shrinking bedroom

of your mid-twenties, eat toast

in a stained bed. This, you once believed,

was where the magic could happen.

This mangle of sheets. Pillows

piled up like corpses.

A car horn instead of a cock-crow

wakes you again, flinging the sheets

to gaze up half-romantically

over the steering wheel of your life,

at the red eye lit like a planet,

the perpetual colour of traffic.

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