City of Sirens

By Saoirse Nash | 13 Feb 18
Empty alley poetry Right Now

It’s becoming a city of sirens again,
all of them are, and
this is the nice part of town –
as long as you close your eyes as
you pass the alleyways.
If you looked you might see
skip bins overflowing with food,
the boss’s son pours water
through a bag of wasted sandwiches,
pad locks the bin,
flies to New Zealand for the weekend.
Next door wedged between
luxury apartments
and the bakery,
is an empty plot,
a sleeping bag hangs
on the fence,
Once, this was a squatters den,
before the floor boards were torn up,
each one varnished in the tears of kids
without shelter that night –
the house was demolished.
Landlords lord over empty land
police defend their right
to a steal a salvaged bit of comfort
on this already stolen land.
And it might seem like overkill
but I need you to know
that painted above that old back door
read, misspelled and barely literate:
“this the hous of homeless and a family
all r welcom”

On the walk home
a street sign swings loose in the breeze,
a streetlight flickers rapid in the dark,
it’s cold enough that the ghosts of your old loves
dance on your breath tonight,
the phone box outside your house is smashed in,
you hadn’t even noticed there was one to begin with,
till the glass melted into your boots,
a fire burning through all your clothes, your nerves
your thoughts,
the glass melts into your boots, you hear it scrap
off the pavement and it sinks further towards your feet,
you reach for the phone, on fire and hoping for someone
to douse you but there’s no dial tone,
no way to phone home and we’re all aliens to ourselves,
all aliens to each other and the land,
home died long ago
the warmth of those hearth fires, the ones we lit
on starry nights before the invention of lock and key,
sometimes echo in your chest and it’s so beautiful you
are afraid you might be consumed,
and sometimes it’s anger for flint,
sometimes it’s joy for dried twigs,
sometimes it’s sadness for ciggie lighter –
and you stamp out all the flames before there’s
any ash for us to phoenix in,
you smother the last flickering light of freedom
as it tries to show you the way.

You drive to the bakery the next day,
you greet the boss’s son with a smile,
you put on your apron, cleaned and dried –
they threatened to cut your hours
if you didn’t spend your free time
preparing to be there again –
you ask the son about his trip to new Zealand,
he speaks of wastefulness like it is synonymous to meaning,
and you keep meaning to say something,
to break his smile in half with your anger,
to break the windows with that pad lock,
but you swallow all his poison,
you smile with gratitude and close your eyes.
He pours water in the bag of today’s sandwiches,
you carry it outside,
the sleeping bag is gone,
you are no longer on fire.
You hear a siren scream on it’s way
to the scene of some other crime,
some arbitrary line in the sand,
you hope they do not make it on time,
you hope this is wildfire and it will catch,
and a city will finally learn to die,
and that people will remember how to live.