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Mar 012012
Alexandra Lister



Because even as you fall asleep, imagining me here,
waking, scripted and precise in the rooms of
your house, I hear you whisper l’aurore, just
as the room drowns yellow as the sun draws a line
across the bare boards, the dust strung across
the shutters, just as the newspaper sellers shout
Jade loses her cancer battle on mother’s day.

8 a.m., and imagine that the Sunday market has begun,
that as I drink your coffee, the cobbles
of Columbia Road are strewn with acres of cut flowers.
The cockney dollybird and her diamond geezer on the corner
stall, All Fur Coat and no Knickers hum to acid house,
lay out their gingham cloths. He calls her Duchess, yells
two for a fivah, as she hands out decorated cookies and red balloons.

Throngs pass beneath the window, a nation of shopkeepers
in shot pink, with armfuls of peonies and cherry blossom
pressed against absinthe green tissue and newspaper.
By four, unwary petals find rain, sprigs are snapped,
the balloons escape over the spires.


Imagine that last night, as you woke, I watched
a strawberry sunset blush over the London Fields,
the cider drinkers, picnic hampers and strewn bicycles,
wheels still spinning. A man in a beret ate oysters
from a tub, licked salt water from his wrists.

And later, at the darkest of your night,
I watched a pin up lounge in a giant martini glass
above the sign “where fine feathers make fine birds”,
as the jaundiced seep of neon lights
from the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
pooled across the street. Through plumes
of cigarette smoke, the boy with the
anchor tattoo got drunk for the first time
and we looked up to see the early swallows come
in over London like tiny bombers. Heaven protects
children, sailors and drunks
, he said, raising
his glass to the stained vanilla sky.


Imagine that by now, the blossom is out
in the back yards, hooped and linking honeysuckle
lines the fence. That having survived the Sahara,
the swallows have crossed continents,
crossed Morocco, Spain and the Pyrenees,
flown over western France, and are here above me now,
the first of them, flittering and swooping over the garden, low,
the metallic glint of royal blue, a cream-buff chest
a russet flash of chin and throat, long forked tails
like streamers catching the light. They remind me
that a feather, traveled 200 miles a day at a speed of
22 miles per hour, can fall at my feet from where you are.
Demain il fera jour.

[This piece originally appeared in Smoke 16.]