East End promise

You must live in Gooseley Lane, the doctor murmured
when we wheeled the kids in, limbs swelling
from bites we’d not seen before, that trickling
summer when the stench wound like a bandage.

Friends commented, when we moved, it doesn’t
sound much like East London, you imagine farmyards,
mists swirling from the river, bucolic scenes
maybe painted once by Constable.

The marshes have deferred to sullen semis,
the once-Norman church that no-one goes to
stranded like an obelisk in its graveyard
full of foxes gorging on McDonalds

while the turds of half a world are funnelled
down the Northern Outfall Sewer, a feat
of faecal engineering not once mentioned
by the agent who talked up the house,

but whiffed each time the sun shone, sniffed
with backyard barbecues and ghetto blasters,
police helicopters and unending traffic
on the Newham Way. And bubbling under,

the cauldrons of the capital, festering
and fetid, simmering us together
in an equality of rank, breeding a plague
of panic-sized mosquitoes.


This poem was also published on Clear Poetry, March 2015.