Stephenson Street

I had to seek work where industry rules
Where the moons glow on a winter’s night finds a kindred world
Where huddled men and women trudge down Stephenson Street
Rocked by the thunderous arctic trucks
The tall cabins where the godlike drivers stare ahead at the morning light
over highways that sing their journeys in the wind of wheels

I see the wreck of Stephenson Street
No Blackbird sings and no crows can breath
A layer of industrial waste covers the ground
As fearful as the dust of a Bodicean ruin

The Docklands Sauna amongst the wreckage of lorries
The Turkish bath by the crushed wooden pallets
The Public House by the troughs of rainwater in the gutters
The Bridgehouse Hotel with the electric pylon in the little garden

The Walsall Electric Distribution Center in the stillness of night
The goods yard where two stumps of poplar trees
Shriek in the sky strangled by electric cable strung across their stumps

The level crossing welded open where thistles grow in the carcasses of sleepers
Then the magnificent Parcelforce warehouse
A fortress here in the industrial wasteland
Whose lights glow all winter long

Rape cries the land by Canning town
Death cries the rat who chew its dead body
Stay clear cry the birds whose lungs are sweet
Who avoid the open graveyard that would swallow them like quicksand

The River Lea flowing through a gangrenous, septic knee joint of industry by the Thames
The Tube rail coaches that pass by as angels over a battlefield
A drab ugly flyover of more imposing brutal power
A town as crushed as a dead man’s broken grate

The barbed wire on a lamp lit pub
The skip lorry in by the building
The Offset Litho printers yard littered with scrap paper
Squashed plastic bottles, lumps of concrete

As if there is moonlight and nothing else
As if there is love and nothing more
As if dreams were broken and births flooded the night
As if the attractions of women made the world grow dark
And the wreckage of Stephenson Street was made dark and beautiful in the night
By the work of passion and the rise of lust
By the threat of abuse and the satisfaction of desire

As their ebony skin in the ice crystal moon
Were engines of magic engineered by sex
That laboured through the winter’s night
Like complex machinery of waiting hearts

(The metaphor of human sex is this wasteland)

The Rolls of barbed wire on the high wall
In the street light at the dark public house
The skip lorry fixed on the roof of the office
Like a bird on a nest surrounded by the dung
A wheel less cab a broken garbage truck
A trailer on bricks a lorries wheel guard
And who are these people leaving the Sauna
On a winters night amid industrial waste
Getting into their cars on Stephenson Street
Talking about their illnesses and saying their good-byes

The four feet of the pylon standing on the grass
The moon shining on the rusty plant machinery in the yard
Love comes back to me as a shadow dance
It likes to remind me of my past failures
It loves the moonlight on a cold December night
It feels like a many-clawed angel in a whirlpool of vertigo
It shuffles truth and emptiness together
It strings experiences together like a necklace
It grows from calamity down a pot-holed road
Covered in rainwater and lamplight
To the echo of the laughing moon

727 plant machinery

The cliffs and plateaus of love
The long dark walk down a polluted road
Where mountains of money glint like bad teeth
Impatience and anger tear at my eyes
The feet of memories are heard running down a street between the clouds
And all the time life’s pain is joy and loneliness together
As I hang between the two and fear falling to my death
Just as the light shines or just as the light goes out

Shadows take my place in the flirtation
They leave holes in my soul where I see the past
My mind is so alone and out of orbit
When people’s eyes are blank and filled with mistrust
Down the industrial road (George Cross flags) in the winter moonlight
Where the Royal Mail vans go scurrying like young blind Robins

The P&O palace flaking white chalk shell
Placed over the entrance to a hole full of worms
The Trans-European arctic trucks
Parked in the sheds like Solomon’s horses

The Advance Bakery van scurries on by
Passed Motor City a dead as a dud rivet
Passed the Marshall Offset Litho
Deaf as a dead jaw in a desert of dirt

And look at the shooting star that fascinates
A meteorite of love in the womb of the sky
The solid light of stars as untouchable as air
Can I breathe your light into my mortal body?

17.18

The green and white dump truck by the printing shop
Advance finishes

A strange body, the night sky, clear as glass
Cold as an angel’s blood, deep as an angel’s eyes
Big as an angel’s heart, a mind filled with stars
Then as I looked over my shoulder that shooting star

Closer now to the sorting office another pylon planted by the car park
The steady stream of people and cars, an army, a refugee column
Communication is agony at work nothing but the basics is required
Now I am one with the polluted land

Depressed like it, but not captured
Not like the abandoned teenager I once was
Who had no night and no day
Whose heart was as dead as a used match

Night and day are clear to me now
They highlight the industrial land with light and dark
In the light I see the stamp of man’s names in the earth
In the darkness I see where their love is wasted

Tube train, tube train, going nowhere
Night, rain and brain drain with dirt in the air

The Durham Arms – ale and beers, homemade lunches – quiet
Tall wire fence capped by barbed wire of Charles Kendal’s freight LTD locked up windows and doors
Docklands steam and sauna Ladies night on Wednesday Authentic Turkish Bath
Gas trucks parking in Ives Road, or diesel containers
Of diesel fuel stood on bricks of Diesel Fuel Distribution
Litter drifting in the breeze
A bag hooked up to a wire fence flapping

Reliant engineers
BT coils of barbed wire with the plant rusted machinery in yard some covered by plastic
Pylon up lit in grisly green in haulage yard
Isle of dog’s arctic truck backed into small yard
Woman stands smoking waiting on corner
Now people stream over the railway bridge from the tube station

If you add up all the look of all the people who work here at night
They come to nothing
The waning moon

The end of the last shift was depressing
The way the work force was fragmenting
The line manager took sides and went home
An argument began over the music

The street sign says welcome to Stephenson Street
To the Sauna and Steam bath the best in town
I stumble over a sandbag on the pavement
Three car wheels scattered by the road
The Durham Arms is lit by the street light
Ales and beers and homemade lunch
Charles Kendal Freight Ltd.
Protected by a tall wire fence capped by barbed wire
All the doors and windows boarded up and behind iron grates
Then the Docklands Steam and Sauna, Ladies night on Wednesday
The Authentic Turkish bath on this street of wreck and ruin
Gas tankers parked in the side road
Stationed on bricks in St. Ives Rd
Of the diesel Fuel Distributors
Litter drifts in the breeze, a bag hooked by wire fence flapping
Reliant Engineer, BT, security zone, coils of barbed wire
With plant machinery in the yard some covered by plastic wrapping
An Isle of Dogs Arctic truck backed up into a driveway
One of the pylons lit up in grisly green light
That stands over the street like a giant on a battlefield
This one abridge the haulage yard

A convoy of cars stream over the bridge
And veer round the corner into the driveway
A Parcel Express arctic lorry swings round the corner to the gateway
A woman stands waiting, smoking
More people from the tube station streaming down the hill and down the iron stairs
The looks of all the people their eyes as dark as the darkness
If you add up all of our looks
It all adds up to nothing
The waning moon is bleeding into the night
A frosty crystal light from its shadow
I show my pass at the gate and walk into the sorting office

2000