In London

after 'In Jerusalem' by Mahmoud Darwish

Niall McDevitt

In London, within the crumbs and shards of Roman wall,
I walk from epoch to epoch, a tour-guide, stumbling
into the black-and-white facade of Tudorbethan houses.
Below street-level—in an underground car-park—
is one of the ‘holy of holies’. Its chancel extends eons.
Here, an invisible street, Shakespeare rose. (Humans rise.
How? They work and play in a theme-park called Eden).
Outside is a huge chunk of London Wall, with steps,
like a Greek amphitheatre. Nearby is a herb garden,
with tangles of mandrake, next to Barber-Surgeons Hall.
There were hand-fastings in this quarter, much adultery,
and on Ascension Day things really began to take off…

I pulled white roses, walked Milk Street to Silver Street
among Marranos and Huguenots, talking in honeyed English,
looking into the hearts of the people I lived with, a poetic
piss-doctor. I found that with a mere flourish of the quill
I could transfigure lives, gild the human agon. My clients
even called me ‘Master’. Some complained of wars,
plagues, fires, floods, but took the incarnations I offered.
The queen died slowly. Then my brother. Then I too exited
as she ‘the thousand’
                                      she the shadow-swan
                                                                                played on.

In an underground car-park, I pray for the whale we’re in
who ride the British Hieroglyphick, strangers here.


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