Days of 1985

Michael Hofmann

Warm air and no sun – the sky was like cardboard,
the same depthless no-colour as the pavements and buildings.
It was May, and pink cherry blossoms lay and shoaled
in the gutter, bleeding as after some wedding ...

Broken glass, corrugated tin and spraygunned plywood saying
Arsenal rules the world. Twenty floors up Chantry Point,
the grey diamond panels over two arsoned windows
were scorched like a couple of raised eyebrows.

Tireless and sick, women hunted for bargains.
Gold and silver were half-price. Clothes shops
started up, enjoyed a certain vogue, then
went into a tailspin of permanent sales,

cutting their throats. A window waved Goodbye, Kilburn,
and Everything Must Go. The Last Day was weeks ago –
it didn’t. The tailor’s became Rock Bottom.
On the pavement, men were selling shoelaces.

A few streets away, in the renovated precinct,
girls’ names and numbers stood on every lamp-post,
phone-booth, parking-meter and tree. Felt tip on sticky labels,
‘rubber’, and ‘correction’ for the incorrigible.

At night, the taxis crawled through Bayswater,
where women dangled their ‘most things considered’ from the kerb.
A man came down the street with the meth-pink eyes
of a white rat, his gait a mortal shuffle.

A British bulldog bowler hat clung to his melting skull.
... Game spirits, tat and service industries,
an economy stripped to the skin trade, sex and security:
Arsenal boot boys, white slaves and the SAS.