Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Piss Town


going back
through institutional corridors
and overgrown secret paths
which cut across the backs of the hospital
like surgery scars on desolate hills
up the winding stone staircase
to an industrial ground-zero
of abandoned refrigerators
and dripping chimneys spewing
thick, grey chemical smoke
to the blackened wall
where I wrote the inscription
“Joy Division” in silver paint
sometime around 1992

when I close my eyes
the images play out
against the lids
a travelogue of childhood flashes:
piss town.

from a secluded path where
an acne scarred girl charged one cigarette
for a hand-job and a glimpse of tit
to the crumbling, faux-Victorian pub
were I was served my first beer
and the old, beaten up whores
of Clayton Street, lurking in the shadows
of the lumber yards and the gas works
waiting for trade to stumble drunkenly
from the twinkling lights of the pubs and clubs

the frozen image of a sad-eyed young girl
staring out window of a terraced house
and then stolen away in a flutter of net curtains
and a girl I once knew, half dead now,
crushed with poverty and port wine
two incubator babies and her insides
dumped into hospital bins before she turned thirty:
piss town.

I served my time
in dusty world war two bedrooms
you wrote your name in childlike letters
on a box of forgotten papers
in a stifling attic

I severed my ties
bled from my hands, my mouth,
my pen
all of the others still locked behind
a sturdy steel door of drunken recollection
preserved in amber
hand frozen over a glass of bitter
forever wired on pink amphetamines
brutalized by the intervening years
some killed by work, some by knives,
or women,
and some by the steady
passage of time:

piss town

on the news
the US secretary of state
waving from the town hall steps
with the local MP (who lives in Whitehall)
both smiling stiffly beneath
the Sunday skies
how fitting – Basra, Gaza
and now here…

while in The Swan those driven insane
by the brutal drudgery of it all
drink cider and whiskey to forget
to speed up time’s monotonous progression
desperate to skip ahead
to the final act
a misty churchyard
a handful of mourners
it was a lovely service
just lovely:

piss town

but sometimes, alone
underneath the crumbling architecture
of Queen Park hospital
looking down from my spot on the wall
at the empty bottles of Zeppelin and White Lightening
discarded bras and dosser’s blankets
I’d close my eyes and listen
to the Imam’s call to prayer
floating up from Audley Range
a welcome interloper from some inaccessible continent
the feel of the light, July wind
on my face, and I concede
there is something special here
hidden away from prying eyes

something private, odd,
neither from the council estates of Higher Croft
nor the abandoned terraces of Shakeshaft Street
something that appears at dusk
during stolen moments of peace like this
before it is inevitably carried away
from me again:

piss town


Tony O'Neill

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