I It could have been foie gras , no less, something smooth slithers between lips, though muffled in a mouthful a second time, scattered in the chime of champagne floats colliding across table tops, then, eventual gurgling. Silver penny bubbles trail across the tongues that work away an afternoon, worming bitter tales over sour dough , mouths the ah-s and oh-s to the tune of brunch-time etiquette, here in the bleached indent into city life where English tea houses relish rare sunlight and parade their store fronts with European coffee-shop tables, fill the reverent brunchers, now engrossed in poppy-seed bagels and cucumber water— who exercise taste buds honed to the delectable, to the aromatic rising off of fine china lemon zest then, the stink of vermin. Foul, sweating out their pelt under October sunshine. Behold the inner-city nomad: as a shadow creeping as slowly as the sun rises, as a bug on a distant surface where the high street is drab, dull and melancholy, stick-like six legs scuttle over monochrome— alien here, in the groves where paving stones are broken into green space, flowers, new trees, fallow in grey fields, where young blood congregate and empathise with the ever-thinning ozone, sewing kit in hand soy beans and plasters a thin string of humility ready for threading. Empathise, still, as the vagrant lingers—paws outstretched, inching over table tops, unmistakably here dead-eyed and high boasting a dark concave, pale skin and pink sores, the seeds of rough sleeping. Sulphite-liver-stuffing from the over counter brownbag-cider numbs loneliness. Threatens the end of benedict, yolk bleeds down into the loaf. Bare pearly white tegs, the I’m sorry eyes— change buried in the nooks of jean pockets, too many turns of a limp wrist, that, that that is, that is, utters nothing, more than red cheek stuttering. Bills are split, waiters tipped, out tipping the other. II It should have ended in the wheel arches. Where loose bolts are free to break bones and sheer momentum forms stock cubes. To pull oily clumps from the tread of old tires —is not cruel— when nerves are blown like a misused fuse box thought and no feeling mind wandering with the romantics. Shore waters roar against quay walls, sends black and white war birds bumbling in the tumult. I crouch, waiting for wings to hit more-bat-like in this darkness, street lights reach out small hands, smaller fingers, thin whispers on a black landscape of winged-things sure to sing to my in-an-hour blues. Taxi cab climbs the concourse—careers towards, through, across, leaves a sad mass writhing in existence. Sings a swan song, one soprano scream or squeal, dissonant to those sea birds that prevail somewhere above me, hawks at the diner now, more vulture—expressing distinct carnivore. The victim slithers as I shiver, cold caught in the wind coming off of the sea front, drags broken bones and two lost limbs two more testing out an axis across the gravel. To be, man distilled. Incarnate as a Father who stands with a boulder towering over limp chickens, to break the backs of rats, to be, the brutalist and build pillars through the firmament, concrete walls keep out tender feelings, scatter this stranger creeping in the stairwells asleep in the wheel arches— to send bad thoughts flying, scarring. Except this is no stranger, they morph with every second into something more familiar. Awakens feeling buried deep in a foreign vault, lost in some strange alcove. Teeth, lips, nose. Stretching as some snout. Takes me home, to the single bed in a box room where Mother reads from a Dahl book and makes this mass coy, sly, inputs definite intelligentsia vulpes-vulpes then, an adaption given in adolescence when lifeless becomes life though the cruel nature of it all brings me to Ted’s thinking, one hot stink. The limp and the blood clot. More, peeling back dusty covers of a thought book even I did not know I owned, a recollection races to my frontal lobe, I see your ears and eyes, the inch thick hairline dressing down your bones, in you, I see my trusted mutt. I see a kindness, I see four legs trotting in green fields and a bundle of Good girls. Reject the brutalist, let me strike a chord and resolve this in some common song, the cold table of a veterinarian awaits, remain alive till we see those surgery lights— though, I see in my own conjectures that when thoughts were free and nimble in romantic recollection to wander with Wordsworth through an alpine pass— you have crawled, two legs broken like bicycle spokes, flown in every angle, a spine tangled into twenty knots, through the darkness and away from me. All that remains are the small shards you thought hapless and a bloody puddle collecting on the concrete. In it I see hesitation and hear our song, unresolved. III The pieces are there. Jigsaw puzzled as the first napkin stumbles across the parkway, darts along the estuary weaving between the feet and legs of coffee shop connoisseurs and outdoor table sets, hand tarnished, worn down to a primer. It flies unobserved, hiding signs of bleeding in the two corners creased up and overturned in its approach. Stops for a second too long a few feet from my own pair, though far enough from the high street and the stone faces tucking into croissants and distilled fruit teas. Presents a blood spot. Light, as a paper cut as a pink-thing raw and red lily blisters a falling stream of poppy seeds flowers in the ridges of dead skin. Mistaken for caring, I shake my head. All of this, two stains an inch from the other, being ketchup or cranberry—anything and all before the blood of another, black and vulgar as a shadow cast by the chic street’s delectable. A second limps and shows four to eyes that wander on the liver speckled drifter; kinder souls part with copper and stray silvers mistakenly taken from cotton pockets: sends the space invader back into the breeze. A stream of bloody blossom leaves the heels of two worn workmen’s boots cotton balls off of fingerless foxgloves boasting pale white rigid finger-things. My neck bows as a black mass invades peripheries, third and fourth come crawling, unmistakably—here—soaked in a deep shade. They shuffle at my feet, lend red ply to shoelaces. Now, billowing in the wind, a thousand marked napkins take me, rising as a cruel swan on the river bank. Parades tainted plumage, stretches blistered wings and a new bill—blue from rough sleeping. Bone eyed and clawless, new scabs and callus,, fingernails too long caught scratching against the earth paddle in the bloodstreams stray legs and polyethylene, comes a body from it all strange, lucid, dirty gutter scrubber though, with eyes familiar to our own as the fox to dogs in them see a ghost legs in spokes shades of hesitation and ridged lifelessness, less I move to be, the Samaritan here, in this red singlep-ly cyclone.

Ben Allen