Poetry: The Writer's Dairy | clivejames.com
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The Writer's Dairy

For my mother

On Amwell Street,
the dairy has been locked up,
abandoned carelessly,
as if an earthquake or volcano
exploded, and not just the decades,
and now all around, slow gentrification.

Damp years of junk mail
load the floor, cool as the milk
and the ice-cream which the signs
still promise can be carried away.
Wholesale boxes of chocolate bars
and crisps are balanced on the till —
brands and packets that till now
I'd never even noticed had disappeared.

Watched by her father,
a girl runs along the street,
he stands at the open door,
I don't know what it is I'm grieving for
or why I feel I should be finding out
who lives here now. It's only
second hand, that I know
the Pizza Express should be the toy shop
or that opposite the dairy, that delicatessen
was never there before.

In the window, the peering face
could almost be a child
who looked just like me,
who'd go in where now there are only
empties and unopened letters,
and dither and queue
and head off at a sprint, past the theatre
and the post office, to find the great-grandmother
I never knew.

From St John's Street,
Rosebery Avenue, at dusk,
tiny lights — gold — caught in the trees.
I pass them all the time,
their insistent celebration,
and they always seem half right, just right,
and half all wrong
when on any given day,
I'm years too late for tea,
to stop and get the milk
and cream cakes on my way.

The sharp light dulls;
on the second autumnal day of the year
I take in a gaudy sunset:
pink and orange, bright
because not in spite of the dirt, spilling
beyond the grey, as far as where the city scatters
and someone somewhere still milks cows.