(More from) ‘The Human Race’, ch. 5: City

The Human Race Chapter 5: City


Pigeons peck at the heart of a city that beats no stronger than the heart of a lover I met on Tinder (his name is lost in the ethers of love). They dive into the dirt-brown Thames, into a shiver of litter and light.


The park sparkles with a soirée of flies, a penny-filled pond and a stipple of sun.


In Trafalgar Square, heroes cast shadows over my lungs.

Alabaster women break wind.

Bins are filled with a debris of cravings

and empties are left on benches and curbs.


I stroll along a bridge that spans all possibilities. I breathe in petrol fumes, hotdogs and burnt nuts. I catch the eye of a living statue (and avoid the Eye that vies for attention).

I speak to the Big Issue guy. ‘I’m up on my luck,’ he says.

I want a trinket or talisman: a friendship bracelet, a soap-on-a-rope, a dome, an ugly shell.


Through Leicester Square, amid a host of awkward angles, an artist fills the pavement with crayons of light.

A busker sings ‘Londonderry Air’.

A Christian shouts: Are you a sinner or a winner?

Someone else says, ‘Leaves, like tourists, come and go. Birds sound sweeter where Plane trees grow. These streets are paved with shit, not gold. All will be sold for a song.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ I reply. ‘This light is dun, these buildings dun, the people undone, unravelling themselves night after night. Soon, the road-sweepers will come and streetlamps will force the dark out of hiding.’


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