A pair of poems written in the style of William Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’.
A symposium of angelic harmony greets her as she arrives in London for the very first time. A new life, a new start and abundant opportunity await. The green plains of the royal parks and public open spaces have essence of the vast emerald forests which line her home near the Caspian Sea. It’s high season in summer and everywhere she looks is beauty; in the people, in the skies and in the flower beds. Smiles become infectious when exchanged between strangers and friendships are forged in minutes. Inspiration comes at her from every imaginable angle and she snaps away with her camera phone, noting down areas so she can return with her Canon. Passing by those with freedom of the city she drops metal coins into hats. It seems she has finally found a place where people look out for each other and relishes in the joy and comfort this brings. Ignoring the advice to avoid certain places, the nomad decides she can trust the city. No problems walking around on her own, and if any arise she takes it all in her stride and decides she’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. London itself will never be blamed, for it plays no single hand in steering ones’ destiny. The only thing it offers is grand opportunity and will happily provide for whomever requests. The hopeful need nor want for nothing, for it all exists in front of them, laid out in the form of a concrete jungle. Just waiting to be taken for those who believe in it, offering itself in the role of a God.
A cardboard city within a city of stone, where the homeless and helpless seek solace in similar company. The high-flying stock traders past them morning and evening, never glancing up from the stats on their phones. They share petitions to end hunger on social media and troll Facebook friends for having cold hearts – what a challenge to look past a screen. Although their unkempt clothes should make them stand out, the people in boxes remain as pieces of glass. Shelters are made from discarded papers, the very same ones the city boys read on their warm journey in. Preachers with leaflets stand beside the destitute teaching the lesson of “love thy neighbour”, but seem blind-sided to the plight of the one behind them. It’s the students on government loans that bring food from the supermarket and offer it up to ease the cold winter chill. Clothes drives are organised in universities local to the urban campsite. Yet students are still regarded as a sponge in the societal money pot, soaking everything up and giving nothing back. Where benches once stood now exist sleep inhibitors, spikes sticking out of the floor. Bus stops no longer have level seating, the black plastic bar is angled to make resting impossible. Those falling out of private members clubs think it’s funny to steal hats full of change as a dare; they pay two hundred pounds per month to pay for cocktails on a roof next to a heater. A church congregation takes place near-by with the full attendance of the local acolytes. They entice new parishioners with the promise of free tea and cake, the ones outside remain starving and frozen. Policemen patrol the streets doing their duty to keep the place safe, but they move on the cardboard dwellers and impose dispersal orders, as if a hungry lost soul is a threat. Sign boards and posters make it clear there’s no loitering, whether safe in a group or alone and exposed. For the homeless the city is baron and empty, light doesn’t exist here and life is a black as the dirt on the streets. Desperation does not destroy morality; the absence of empathy achieves this all on its own. But now all they face is trial and redemption for wrongs that they didn’t commit. Wrong place, wrong time; the city dealt a bad hand and now it’s controlling their destiny. With no end in sight and their only relief in the form of a pre-paid hostel or selling the big issue, the ghosts of the city remain this way, until they disappear from existence. The sun sets as cyclically as their optimism. Such is the result of grand opportunity, conning its way into the hope of the hopeless. The city takes on the role of God, punishing those it deems unworthy.