Four London Poems

Four London Poems by Paraglider

Of the many places I've lived, nowhere is poetically more inspiring than London. In my last year there, in 2000, I was living in Paul Street, E23, a perfect location for me, as I could walk to work in Farringdon and in the evenings explore the great sprawl of the East End, Hackney, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green. This is not tourist London. You don't have the palaces, parks and theatres here. But what you lose in grandeur you more than make up for in community. Real people live here and go about their daily business of making ends meet, often against the odds. There's humour here, and a thousand small stories per acre.

my paul street flat above the store
my paul street flat above the store | Source

About the poems

Usually I prefer to let poems speak for themselves, but unless I write something here, the first poem will be crushed out of shape by an intrusive advertisement, possibly for Forex Trading, whatever that means. Such is life in the commercial on-line world. So, the poems:

The first, Paul Street, E23, is a description, in blank verse, of my London apartment. I rented it unfurnished and equipped it only with a mattress, a table, a chair, a computer and a guitar. Nothing else seemed necessary, especially as I had all of London on my doorstep.

The second, Community, catches a chance encounter with one of London's unfortunates. There are many broken and damaged people in this great metropolis. I could have handled his approach better, but he wrong-footed me by appearing out of nowhere and commenting on the sandwich I was demolishing.

The third, The Commercial Tavern, E2, brings back fond memories of occasional non-working days spent walking the old streets in search of nothing deeper than contentment and gratitude to the millions of nameless ones who built this greatest of cities, brick by brick. The poem is written in Sapphics, an early Greek form named after Sappho of Lesbos.

The fourth, The Costermonger, finds a woman caught up in her own troubles until pulled back to reality by the immediacy of a street seller calling for custom. Such things happen. The poem is a rondeau, an early French form.

OK, enough introduction. With luck, we've foiled the advert!

Paul Street, E23

High on the wall, a leather cap. The kind
John Lennon liked to wear, its gloss of black
catching the bare bulb glare. This room is red,
blood red. The ceiling, white. The naked floor
stretches rough pine between cracked skirting boards.
A mobile phone, kingfisher blue, proclaims
its presence with a triad, soh mi doh,
repeated twice before I cross the room
to comfort it, holding its sleek cool form,
this little speaking thing, close to an ear
that once, in 1967, heard
descending chords, the start of Strawberry Fields,
played on a mellotron, (although it might
have been a martinet for all I knew).
The moment passed, but everything had changed.
Something had come of age. Now, looking back
at Maharishis, kaftans, beads and bells,
I will not rush to join with Mark Lamaar
and others of his kind who point and sneer,
but, as the day grows old, and from the street
below there comes the sound of voices, young
men on the town, and girls in twos and threes,
I reach the leather cap down from the wall
and wander out, as if it mattered, now.


"A man like you, that likes his bread..."
I turned and waited for the rest
but nothing came. I think I said
"Sorry?", but he had done his best.
Flinching, he turned his face away instead.

Perhaps he couldn't try again,
finding some flicker of distaste
at his appearance, or disdain
hover in my unguarded face
denying both his presence and his pain.

He stood and fidgeted until,
embarrassed by his stammered sound
and by the broken silence still
resounding in his ears, he downed
his dregs and shambled out on Ludgate Hill.

The Commercial Tavern, E2

All my London sweats in a haze of diesel
while I wait outside the Commercial Tavern,
wait, but not for any profound adventure,
only for evening.

Laced with comfort, time and a quart of porter,
basking through the noise of a thousand engines,
mine the grand diversion of contemplating
other men working.

Hills and books have shown me a lark ascending,
counselled me to cherish Divine creation.
These I'll gladly trade for a builder heaving
muck on a shovel.

William's early morning of inspiration*
taught him how the city in sleep is lovely.
Still, he might have waited until the business
really got started.

Drinking beer and sunlight in equal measure,
pleased to watch the scaffolders ply their mission -
not to let one glorious breast or buttock
pass by unwhistled.

* referring to 'Upon Westminster Bridge', by William Wordswoth

The Costermonger

Only the call of a costermonger
turned her around in the lonely street
from the press of gloom she feared to meet.
Words he'd said and the look he'd flung her
buried the joy of the times he'd rung her
saying she made his life complete.
Only the call of a costermonger
turned her around. In the lonely street,
something of pain, of pride, of hunger
made of his voice a wand to beat
out of her mind all thoughts of defeat,
leaving her lighter, strangely younger.
Only the call of a costermonger
turned her around in the lonely street.

More by this Author

Comments 26 comments

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

I've really enjoyed your poems and story Paraglider, Thank you so much for sharing so much. Your old apartment in London looks, sounds very comfortable and perfect for your ramblings about the colourful streets. Regards, snakeslane

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks snakeslane. I enjoy life here in Qatar too, but always have fond feelings for London. It was just a one bedroom flat and I used to get wakened every morning at 6 a.m. when the shopkeeper downstairs opened his steel roller blinds. No need for an alarm clock!

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

This was beautiful and so far out of my league, I bow in respect. I particulary enjoyed "Paul Street E23." It takes me back to my youth and my first apartment. I spent seven days in London once, and that's it. I loved the visit, and made so many friends in such a short length of time, I hated leaving.

Thank you.


Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

A very evocative selection of poems. I like the commercial tavern particularly. The collection could be true of a number of British cities.

I KNOW the kingfisher blue phone. It is better looking than any you can get today! :-)

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Jim - thanks for the visit :) I still manage an occasional day and night in London either end of my extended trips out to Qatar. Stepping out of Paddington Station alsways has a feeling of homecoming.

Talisker - The Commercial Tavern itself has been closed for about a year now, for refurbishment. I hope they don't ruin it. I liked that phone. It was very rounded and comfortable :)

maven101 profile image

maven101 5 years ago from Northern Arizona

Morning Dave...These are beautifully constructed and image-laden poems in four distinct styles, which I found fascinating...

I was particularly impressed with your Sapphic effort...The last time I read such was years ago while studying Ezra Pound...His " Apparuit " was a revelation in style and conversational context...

Your forward was most interesting, delightful, and informative all rolled into one...Thank you...

Stay well, my friend...Larry

carcro profile image

carcro 5 years ago from Winnipeg

Nicely done, I felt like I was in London while reading your poems, very descriptive in just right amount!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Larry. I was hoping you'd find these, knowing you to be another poet who enjoys walking in London. All's well here in Qatar. It even rained this morning. First since March!

Carcro - thanks for the visit and comment. London has its problems but will always be a special place.

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

Beautiful writing Paraglider and I enjoyed the different styles of poetry. I feel like a had a little tour of London and it was most enjoyable.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thank you, Minnetonka. A little tour, but only of the East End :)

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 5 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I enjoyed this tour of London, it made me a little nostalgic of the feelings I used to get as a young high school teenager reading poetry by English poets. My favorite one is "Paul Street, E23".

Voted up!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks VioletSun. Paul Street E23 is closest to home for me too. Probably because it was home, for a year :)

GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


Your poetry is exquisite. Perfect in form, touching to the soul. And you wrote for your audience - you knew I would not relate to the bridge - thank you for holding my hand.

"Nothing else seemed necessary, especially as I had all of London on my doorstep." - words of great wisdom.

James Kavanaugh is about the only poet I read except here on HP. I look forward to reading more.

I encourage you leave us more great works of poetry - these are masterpieces.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

GmaGoldie, thank you for visiting three of my recent hubs today. I haven't posted many poems on HP as they tend to disappear quickly, but maybe this format of introductory text followed by a group of three or four will hold water, so to speak.

ExoticHippieQueen 5 years ago

I really enjoy your way with words, Paraglider. I specially enjoyed The Costermonger, even though I don't even know what the heck it is! Voted up and awesome!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks, E H Q :) A Costermonger is/was a street seller in London and elsewhere, usually pushing his wares around on a barrow. They call out to draw attention. There are still a few around.

rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

I found my way here via Tom Rubenoff's latest poem. These are so lovely to read. I enjoyed your intro also, giving us a glimpse of background for each poem. I especially like Paul Street and the Costermonger.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Rebekah, The Paul Street one seems to be getting the most approvals. Glad you enjoyed them :)

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

I'm back to look at how you did the rondeau Paraglider, it's catchy, thanks again, snakeslane

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Two rhyme sounds and very structured repeats. It's quite restrictive but suits some subjects well.

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

I voted 'the costermonger' my favorite poem of the year (within the last year) on a Hub Pages. In answer to a 'Question' yesterday Paraglider. Just so you know :)

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hey thanks, snakeslane :) I've been a bit scarce around here recently. Must do something about that!

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 3 years ago

Beautiful writing here Paraglider. But you always ring true with an earthy tint. I loved the "guns don't kill" hub as well. You do great works.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 3 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Micky - I might go back and re-enable comments on "guns don't kill", now that the peace is restored!

annart profile image

annart 16 months ago from SW England

An education for me to read these different styles and I'm glad you preceded them with your explanation.

You bring these areas of London to life. I don't know these particular ones very well but I know London well enough to recognise the backstreet hussle and bussle and the life which lingers there.

There is also a lot of your own knowledge of literature behind these words, as well as your local experience of course.

Thoroughly entertaining and a great read; I was there in the streets and I felt the emotions therein.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 16 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Ann - thanks for reading some of my stuff today. It is encouraging when people take the trouble to give feedback. Much appreciated :)

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