Harley Street

Ruth Padel

She was born round the corner
in an attic. Balancing chemistry
textbooks on her feet, her father
pushed the ivory five-foot pram
down the middle.

‘He thought you were immortal’
says her mother. Later
she daggered sticks
along immaculate black railings.

Today it is a psalm
with each brass doorbell,
every blue-rinsed concierge,
daily bland against the rush
of last hopes. What’s breeding

behind the eye-slits
of the veiled chess Queen
whose biblical dress
feathers York paving

and Cornish granite
up the steps of Forty-Four?
Who have the sandblasted angels
on the cross with Queen Anne Street,
seen bereft today?

The worst are those waiting for a name
to something at work in a child,
pictured within
like leeches,

the sooty tagliatelle
in jars on the hospital shelf,
which the Middlesex
taught her father to apply
just under the eye-socket for a bruise.