Alex Aldred ~ Two Poems

Waterside Theatre

Having washed up in London – the East End,
maybe, some­where between the ancient City
and the Thames at any rate – I became fix­at­ed
on cer­tain details that described the state
of the whole place, and my rela­tion­ship to it.

Take maps of the under­ground; I’d lose
a day, trac­ing their imag­ined geo­gra­phies
of par­al­lel lines and equal­ly-spaced sta­tions,
col­lat­ing ways to supress the shape of real­i­ty
and replace it with schemat­ics, abstract infor­ma­tion.

Then there’s the labelled homes of Bromley-
by-Bow; sleek met­al let­ters float­ing as if
super-imposed on those pri­ma­ry-colour flats,
like life-size satel­lite pho­tographs over­laid
with copy­right dis­claimers and live traf­fic stats.

From a bal­cony, I saw the Waterside Theatre,
a squat thing lit from beneath, glow­ing dim­ly
in the timid light of my evening. No river­banks
or canals in sight; the hall was framed only
by twinned lanes of A12 in the fore­ground –

patched-up hatch­backs and fish­tail­ing lor­ries
on their final hur­tle through Greenwich,
bound for des­ti­na­tions beyond my sphere
of ref­er­ence, see­ing noth­ing but tar­mac
as they tun­nelled out­wards into the black.

~

Bedroom Window

From here, I can see the local Church
of the Nazarene; nine­teen twen­ty-eight,
states the bronze plaque over the front gate,
though with its mis­matched brick­work
and fad­ed red slate, I’d have guessed
it was old­er. There’s car­na­tions perched
at the win­dowsill. A skip full of rub­ble
and dis­man­tled fur­ni­ture squats
by the road­side.

Funny thing, though:
last night, throat sore and dry, swollen-eyed,
I swore I saw that sacred place slide side­long
out of sight – vase top­pled, skip slip­ping
down a road that, until then, had held no slope –
and I found myself face-to-face instead
with the pine that used to block my view,
as I scaled the old radi­a­tor to peek out
of my child­hood room.

Scenes cycled past
at speed, like sub­se­quent frames of film
tip­ping in and out of focus through the glass.
I caught a glimpse of last year’s panora­ma,
Rear Window shot in sub­ur­ban back gar­dens;
then the Escher-style rooftops I’d clock
from my high-rise apart­ment, gut­ters
and aeri­als cut across each oth­er,
tes­sel­lat­ing the hori­zon.

Finally,
the pin­wheel-fire­work lurch and spin
of back­drops I thought I’d for­got
churned to a stop, and returned
to its begin­ning. The church slot­ted back
in its spot as grav­i­ty reassert­ed itself.
Yes, I was sick; I woke at the foot of the bed,
full of nau­sea, my tongue thick. But lis­ten:
all of that real­ly hap­pened. I didn’t dream this.

~

Alex Aldred (he/him) lives and writes in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he is cur­rent­ly study­ing towards his PhD in cre­ative writ­ing. You can find out more about his work by vis­it­ing his site, www.alexaldred.co.uk, find­ing him on twit­ter @itsmealexaldred, or by sum­mon­ing him to speak with you in per­son, pro­vid­ed you have access to the nec­es­sary runes.