Anthropocene

We live, we’re told
In a new age, a new epoch –
No blankets of ice receding;
No migratory influx
Of elephants, or deer
Hippo or mastodon;
We live, we’re told
In a new age, an age of apes;

Tell that to the sparrows
Struggling for food, for shelter
Where the grubbed-up hedge once was

Tell that to the herring
Their darting silver shoals
More precious than our silver trinkets

Tell that to the cows
Force injected for profit
Fattened for cheap cuts

They already know.

Climbing up Beattock,
That steady climb,
The marvel of man
Tilts, glides, leans –
Yet outside,
The ever-morphing panorama
Reveals the patina of ages seen –
Everywhere,
Everywhere,

The upsy-downy shadows
Of ancient farmers’ furrowed fields

The sinuous blocky grace
Of a dry stone wall, clambering, crossing

The spoil heaps, lost in paradise
Of shovel-clawed quarries,

Mile on mile on mile
Of paving; inked lines, snaking onwards

We already know.

Despite our ascendency, we descend
Unable, unwilling, denying –
Irrationally debating the rational
Arguing the inarguable

Despite our ascendency, we descend
Still we lift the trees
Pave the earth
Grasp, hunt, steal

Despite our ascendency, we descend
Incapable of acting
Incapable of stewarding
Incapable of preventing

Our descent, from our ascendency –

This too,
We already know.

Outsourced Eyes

At this hour,
Beneath the stony rictus gaze
Of Mr. Stephenson, the founder here,
This station approach –
Euston’s grand lobby –
Is laid bare with concrete carpet tiles,
Gauzy vanes and barbs
Of jettisoned pigeon feathers
Trod in chuddy,
Fuchsia pink fag butts –
Is all a furore; the hurly-burly
Of bodily momentum –
A haphazard helter skelter
Randomly rushing to toil;
Skittering, zag-ziggingness
Thither, hither, hubbub
Close-calls, near misses
Auto-pilot adjustments
Avoiding gazes, muttered pardons
Wide-loads, pushed out elbows
Dropped shoulders, in mock attack
Shibuya Crossing;
Times Square;
Oxford Circus;
Purposed busyness.

One set of eyes is blind to it all;
Feeling only, the light brushing
Of arm against coat;
Feeling only, the soft nudge
Of meaningless apologies;
Feeling only, the paper cut edges
Of leaves in the wind on dry skin –
Arm outstretched,
Outsourced eyes steer him
Surely, truly, forward –
A bollard missed;
A tourist’s brolly, evaded;
Unfalteringly forward –
With calm, with trust,
Doggedly forward –
Towards the bright light
Of the rising sun over the city,
And a thousand scents, ignored.

Location, Location.

Down in the cutting,
The 7 o’clock fug of fumes lies
Duvet soft, a drifting blanket;
Up the sides,
Birches and hornbeams –
Cheap trees of the Council –
Rise scrubbily; bark-smeered
With oily, bletchy fingers
Seemingly, scratty yet proud,
Tall and whippy too –
Shooting up, drunk on
Drugs of digger-turned earth
And airborne vits –
Sarny crusts; pasty bits,
Bruised bananas, apple pips.

At this hour, tired eyes
Steer tyred wheels;
Eyeing greedily,
Viscerally dazed imaginings
Of half-grabbed croissants,
Or Tommy-Tippy coffee.
Engines, nose to tail, breathe raspily
Diaphragmatically deep on methane
And obnoxiously noxious NOx.

High up though,
Here, in this unprepossessing roost,
Crows and rooks perch precariously
And sway –
Not in isolation
But in metropoli…
Squabbling, bustling, bursting
Nests stacked on nests,
Ribbon development
Along branch, stem and twig;
Three-story town houses,
Bijou flats in the beeches up front
Back to backs at the back –
Twiggily and twittly chattering –
Social clubs; staycations,
Meat raffles, morning fêtes –
Location, location, location.

Below the fumes,
Below the grass,
Below Kit-Kat shards
And asthma canisters –
The grumbling rumbles,
The resonant roars,
The thrumming quakes,
Are a call to arms
Rain! Shout the worms
Rain! Time to move
Rain! Time to breathe
Up! Up! Up!

And down come the birds –
Down in waves –
Through fugs of fumes, rasping motors,
Down like a duvet, deadly drifting –
To guzzle and gobble and gorge –
Among the sarny crusts and pasty bits,
Bruised bananas and apple pips.