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Lay for the Day
4th May

1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. Which, in itself, should have been good news…

Fox at Canary Wharf [an extract]

I now know why
the Eighties hated me
yes me
despising all I value highest
exalting all I most despise
It was entirely personal

A certain Mrs, now a Baroness
she dreamed a dream
where I’m earning my living
where the bloody wind never stops blowing

(Even on a still day
chill, the yellow leaves
still flowing

The river was in two minds
neither going away nor coming back
it made a big fuss
of a boat that ploughed upstream
waving it away
with a grand wash splashing up the piling
advancing a yard up the shingle
but next thing
had forgotten all about it
went back to fingering the algae-covered loop of old rope
and murmuring

A shell, encroached by weeds
and shrubs and rubbish
an eerie incompletion?

If you see through the money
the buildings seem meant to be funny,
throwing Bauhaus, Doric, baroque,
romanesque shapes on a block
thatŐs still just a box and shows so.
(Nothing dated so fast as po-mo.)
Should business become unjolly
they may be smiled on as period folly,
standing empty:
a monument to M–– T––,
of Toriana.

Being not the future itself
but an ersatz science-fiction-
of-fifty-years-ago, Gerry-
sort of a future

Still there’s a taint,
stronger than faint,
of supremacist myth
about the numinous monolith,
No 1 Canada Square

There –
with the straightahead gait
the directness of a dog
but the grace
in its bounding of a cat
what was that glimpse
among the weeds?

Since this is to be our tetrahedral
let’s pour no scorn
on a too-perfect lawn.
If the fountains are over-excited
that can be righted
and time will remedy too much cleanness.
To find the red dog’s penis
nose of Thunderbird 3 arising
from the circular gardens would not be surprising;

Night in Cabot Square
a still October night
the feast of lights
white water underlit
and the dark itself
with the weight of voltage
pervasive gleam on steel and polished stone

But to see humanity roughen
and soften
the smooth hard edges and colour
the duller
corners; to see Crossharbour, Westferry, Mudchute be
twisted to a better beauty
more suited their solid names,
though not made squalid…

John Gibbens
from Sand of the Thames

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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