Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Month: November, 2009

Walking Diary – Hackney

Dalston to Hackney, November 23rd 2009

Wayward fig, feral weed of juicy fruits. Crawling up the wasted plot behind the old, probably squatted, Chomeley Boys club. And an old fireplace now forms part of the car park next to the Vortex Jazz club. There are graffitied sea horses swimming up the chimney breast. The wall fronts overflowing bins, a broken scooter. A river of froth snakes down off Kingsland High Street. There is a furious flapping as the bunting from a summer festival is strung out across an alleyway. Cross winds make the sound like that of the taut wire on mastheads in a stiff sea wind.

Ridley road market, where nappy rash cream is a bargain and Telapia comes with a free super malt. The sky looks set to sink into a jaundiced dusk. Cranes seem to sway in the wind, arching over our little heads, threatening to develop.

A man pulls his lips over his teeth for intent. An awning is inspired by the wind to take off and its owner groans as he tries to hold it down and fold it up. Pears for sale in bowl. Six for a pound, spike-end-up like the spires of green churches in a multi faith village. A blow-up doll’s feet are set with toes pointed down, painfully pinioned.

At the God’s First Hairdo shack Africa seems to pour forth, contained in a little off-shoot of the market.

Fake nails like neon tapestry work. Is this women’s work now that needlecraft is over? In Hackney Central there is a dusky glow over the Big Foot Dry Cleaners. It’s only 4pm. Buses are compressed like an artery ready to burst. The men of justice are on the beat, stringy bullets at the ready.

The moon bumps the clouds and the ragged end of autumn is dragging down yellows and browns – husks of the plane trees  speak with a hint of green.

Even if there’s no corner shop, café, laundrette. No barbershop, kebab house, art gallery – there’s always a Billy Hill. Reliable, dependable – always there when you need him. On every corner, even in the smallest of commercial hubs.

And it’s not just I who puts their old x-rays up against the windows to catch the light.

Tesco is selling the Twillight series for £3.86.  So that’s how cheap you can get your blood sucking thrills these days. In the Linden Children’s Centre, the condom distribution notice board is festooned in rainbow colours. A boy walks past with a yellow scarf. Instead of a football team it says – police line, do not cross.

© Nia Davies, 2009

Walking Diary – Ethiopia

Turmi, Omo. September 24th 2009

While out in the dust-light, there is flesh in thorns. The prancing feet of gazelles. The dry riverbeds are walkways. Vulture feathers, hoopoe hornbills spring up through the acacia bushes.

Round dwellings of stacked wood, the skin of goat, eight cow-lives. Go-away birds with feathered horns. The skin of women and men making heat in the evening. Skin is splashed to wash off dust.

We burn river driftwood, cross flooded waterways and ant-trails like the Hamer people, red-daubed walkers, returning from the bull jumping ceremony.  Skull of Ox. Scars of devotion on the women’s backs. Lust is catered for here, unlike on the other side of the Omo river. Sandy-footed villages. Mile for mile, women walk different lives in their different clans. Digging for water in the river bed. Men wear feathers in their crowns if they have earned the honour to marry in a bull-jump.

The axe, the machete for splitting wood, a Kalashnikov for your ninth birthday. Beaded arms, necks, wrists, bell-feet. Dusty-eyed travellers are we. Dry wood makes good fires. Termite mounds rise like stelae poking through thorns.

Ants crawl over ankle, brown toe-nails. I am five days from Addis, five fathoms of land-locked lake living. Night is doused with the milky way and distant lightning flashing in a corner of the wide sky. Otherwise fire and headlights are the only light. Sweat and dust makes mud between my limbs.

© Nia Davies, 2009

Walking Diary – Regent’s Canal

Victoria Park, Bethnal Green. August 24th 2009

Victoria Park was the ‘Green Lung’ of the East End. Now the melting sun breaks fast into the trees. The canal is a shiny capillary – a vein of pale gold. The panting lungs are now of the joggers, too fast, ears plugged. ‘Apple has made music into wallpaper’ (Neil Young).

Those that know the grass under the crooked knee, those new east-enders, don’t jog. They know that the towpath is perfect for eaves-dropping – boats ablaze for summer, couples waltz-walking, the one-sided mobile phone rants for the walk home.

Moorhens joust in the park pond. The water has a brilliantine green film of algae across it – making it shine in an eerily, almost chemical way. A black heron and a white swan pick through the luminous swamp in a cartoonish waddle. On Bonner Street the bus driver on the parked 309 sits, arms folded, in his seat. He waits in the darkened bus, staring at the road.

A London sundown. It is Ramadan and my flatmate Hossam will be at home, waiting, food laid out before him.

© Nia Davies, 2009

Walking Diary – West Cork

Durrus – overlooking the Sheep’s Head, August 8th 2009

Sea vapour making  a flight over the first hurdle of the headland. A sky that seems to sing. Cormorants wait. Grey on shine, wind that goes from whisper to bombastic. The grassy breeze and a swallow takes time over my head. It makes darts from heart-jolts.

The sheen moves west towards the western isles. Ghost smoke cloud – like a long-dead volcano yearning for its fire.

Durrus

© Nia Davies, 2009

Walking Diary – Gower

Oxwich Bay, August 1st  2009

Salty wind. Razor clams on the wet sand. What name came first, the razor or the clam? The light is catching the waves – a mirror-ball shattering. People are playing rounders, happy. I find a dead gannet – thick layers of white feathers, probably to survive winter winds in the northern Atlantic.  It’s wing joints are angular – bent back on itself.

At the mouth of a brook that peters out onto the sand, I turn inland onto the marshy Nicholaston Burrows. The sound of windy grasses and water. The air smells almost glossy, coming off the forested cliffs. An elegant red-brown bird is sipping water at the river’s muddy edge it jumps up and hovers over the reeds, wings vibrating. There are minnow-like shoals getting fatter in as the water deepens, I trace the trickle up into Oxwich Marsh.

Back on the beach barnacles make ragged teeth around shells, huge growths like a protective armour. I find green wine bottles and a piece of wood with spines like barracuda fins. On a log I find some sort of ocean farm – not muscles but wormy creatures attached to the wood. Their heads are enclosed in pale grey triangular shells. Collectively they make a beaded headdress – there are lines of bright orange around each shell’s mouth. Flies are taking an interest. Are they worms or weed? Shellfish or mollusc? They have elephant skin necks. There is a slight movement – they are still alive. The sea will soon take this city of creatures back into the comfort of brine, but for now the sun parches these jelly necked creatures. They spread across the whole log, some have gotten fat and fruitful, others cling onto to darker spots, stunted in their growth.  They fold in on one another, one has a bulging sac of fluid in its neck. The flies are digging in now.

I walk on and find old buckets from ship decks reused as turret-makers for giant sandcastles. Shreaking swimmers skip in the waves. There are air bubbles from cockles and worms that live into the sand, they pop up bubbles in the new wash of the approaching tide.

Another crustaceous log. People like me are wondering what it is. I ask and no-one knows what this mysterious wildlife is. As I climb the hill over Tor Bay up to Penmaen Burrows the crowd is still transfixed. The tide is coming in but no-one can pull themselves away.

Nearby, a woman strides unflinching into the waves.

© Nia Davies, 2009

Oxwich Bay, August 1st

Salty wind. Razor clams on the wet sand. What name came first, the razor or the clam? The light is catching the waves – a mirror-ball shattering. People are playing rounders, happy. I find a dead gannet – thick layers of white feathers, probably to survive winter winds in the northern Atlantic.  It’s wing joints are angular – bent back on itself.

At the mouth of a brook that peters out onto the sand, I turn inland onto the marshy Nicholaston burrows. The sound of windy grasses and water. The air smells almost glossy, coming off the forested cliffs. An elegant red-brown bird is sipping water at the river’s muddy edge it jumps up and hovers over the reeds, wings vibrating. There are minnow-like shoals getting fatter in as the water deepens, I trace the trickle up into Oxwich Marsh.

Back on the beach barnacles make ragged teeth around shells, huge growths like a protective armour. I find green wine bottles and a piece of wood with spines like barracuda fins. On a log I find some sort of ocean farm – not muscles but wormy creatures attached to the wood. Their heads are enclosed in pale grey triangular shells. Collectively they make a beaded headdress – there are lines of bright orange around each shell’s mouth. Flies are taking an interest. Are they worms or weed? Shellfish or mollusc? They have elephant skin necks. There is a slight movement – they are still alive. The sea will soon take this city of creatures back into the comfort of brine, but for now the sun parches these jelly necked creatures. They spread across the whole log, some have gotten fat and fruitful, others cling onto to darker spots, stunted in their growth.  They fold in on one another, one has a bulging sac of fluid in its neck. The flies are digging in now.

I walk on and find old buckets from ship decks reused as turret-makers for giant sandcastles. Shreaking swimmers skip in the waves. There are air bubbles from cockles and worms that live into the sand, they pop up bubbles in the new wash of the approaching tide.

Another crustaceous log. People like me are wondering what it is. I ask and no-one knows what this mysterious wildlife is. As I climb the hill over Tor Bay up to Penmaen Burrows the crowd is still transfixed. The tide is coming in but no-one can pull themselves away.

Nearby, woman strides unflinching into the waves.

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