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Blinks through bloodshot walks

When at five-thirty
In the rubbed-eye haziness
Of ferreting lonesome night walks
The camera-eye refugee
Asleep in the half wakefulness
Of the hour
Peers out of his high turbanned sockets:
Hyde Park's through road links
London's diurnally estranged couple -
The Arch and Gate.

When at five-thirty
The foot falls gently
Of the vision cut in dark recesses
And the man, finger gingerly on the fly
Gapes dolefully about
For a while
Exchanges a casual passing word
Standing in the Rembrandtesque clefts
And the multipled ma'm'selle trips out:
Neat and slick.
They say you meet the girls at parties
And get deeper than swine in orgies.

When at five-thirty
The fisherman's chilled chips
Lie soggy and heeled under the Arch
Where patchy transparent wrappers cling
To slippery hands jingling the inexact change
That mounted the trustful fisherman's credit:
The stub legged fisher of diplomat
And cool cat
And the prostitutes' confidant;
Each shivering pimp's warming pan.

Then at five-thirty
The bowels of Hyde Park
Improperly growled and shunted
And shook the half-night-long
Lazily swaggering double-deckers,
Suddenly as in a rude recollection,
To break and pull, grind and swing away
And around, drawing the knotting air after
Curling and unfurling on the pavements.

And at five-thirty
The prostrate mindful old refugee
Dares not stir
Nor cares to wake and swallow
The precisely half-downed bottle
Of Coke clinging to the pearly dew
Nor lick the clasp knife clean
Lying bare by a tin of' skewed top
Corned beef, incisively culled
Look! that garden all spruced up
An incongruous lot of hair on that bald pate
No soul stirs in there but the foul air
No parking alongside but from eight to eight.

Learning so hard and late
No time to scratch the bald pate.

At five-thirty-one
A minute just gone
The thud is on, the sledge-hammer yawns
And in the back of ears, strange noises
As from afar and a million feet tramp.
One infinitesimal particle knocks another
And the whirl begins in a silent rage
And the human heart beats harder
While in and around, this London
This atomic mammoth roams
In the wastes of wars and tumbling empires.

(© T. Wignesan 1956, London; from T. Wignesan. Tracks of a Tramp. (A first collection of poems: 1948-61) Kuala Lumpur-Singapore: 1961.)

Submitted: Thursday, July 12, 2012


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