Four poems...

Shoreditch Orchid | Mr Luczinski Takes a Tram | The Pump | Hat and Pan

Shoreditch Orchid

They're grubbing up the old modern
rusty concrete lampposts,
with a special orange grab
on a fixture removal unit.
The planters come up behind
with new old lampposts in lamppost green,
and bury each root in a freshly-dug hole.
The bus can't get past, brooding in vibrations.
We're stuck at the half-refurbished
late-Georgian crescent of handbag wholesalers.
The window won't open. The man behind me
whistles "What a Wonderful World",
and I think to myself:

Any day soon
the rubble will be sifted; the streets all swept,
and we'll be aboard a millennium tram ride,
the smooth one we've been promised, with a while yet to go
until the rising sea and the exterminating meteor,
but close before the war
starting with the robocar disaster.
And when the millennium crumbles,
I'll be squinting through the corrugated fence
at the wreck of the mayor's armoured vehicle, upside down
where they dumped the files of the Inner City Partnership;
and as I kick an old kerbstone
I'll find you, Shoreditch orchid, true and shy,
rooting in the meadow streets
through old cable, broken porcelain, rivets and springs;
living off the bones of the railway.
You'll make your entry unannounced,
in the distraction of buddleia throwing its slender legs
out in the air from nothing,
from off the highest parapets, cheap
attention-seeking shrub from somewhere
like nowhere. But here
you'll identify your own private genes,
a quiet specimen-bloom seeded in junk,
and no use to any of us; only an intricate bee-trap
composed in simple waxy petals, waiting
for the bees to reinvent their appetite.

We'll be waiting for the maps to kindle
as we get settled, where we find ourselves
undiscovering the city,
its lost works, disestablished
under the bridges. There's no more bargaining
for melons and good brass buttons.
We share your niche
and crouch as the falling sun
shines through smoke, and the lampposts
fail to light the night to the place all buses go.

©   Peter Daniels
First prize in the
Arvon International Poetry Competition 2008, with the Ted Hughes Environmental Poetry Prize.


Mr Luczinski Takes a Tram

He has paid a small coin to a glass box
like a fairground machine:

a dull purple ticket
permits him to sway with the tram,

which pushes on through a city of breezeblocks
and neo-baroque stucco.

The people might be
his second cousins twice removed:

a woman in fishmonger's gloves
coming home from the market,

a man balancing two dusty old bikes
between fellow-passengers.

In this incarnation, his tweed suit
is not quite threadbare enough.

He maintains a sense of direction but
there's nowhere it can take him.

Somewhere at the end of this line
is a field of dandelions and a bluebell wood.

©   Peter Daniels
Published 2009 in The North


The Pump

After piped water, the pump becomes redundant,
the handle chained down at the side: at rest, if you like.
The pump turns into “what we used to have”,
but no one’s minded to get rid of it.
With war declared they strip it down and oil it
in case Hitler bombs the reservoirs, but
water stays on tap. It’s part of the yard,
with the paving in dark blue brick sluiced out
with a broom down to the drain.
A piece of ironwork painted green,
rusting into the wall, all of a piece.

It’s what they call “the vernacular”.
Flowers in tubs do brighten it up, the pump
redone in white, the name of the foundry and the date
picked out in black. It punctuates the composition,
sets off the door to the kitchen, the stone basin
where they used to put the bucket
planted up with nasturtiums that trail.
The place all spruce for the visitors,
now the redundant pump can stand for
all the strength it took the kitchen girl to crank it
and crank it till the steely water came up at last, and at last
she could find time to become somebody’s grandmother.
Somebody look at the pump and think of her.

©   Peter Daniels
First prize in the TLS Poetry Competition 2010.


Hat and Pan

Here’s Hat on his unicycle juggling half a dozen eggs
as he hits the tightrope; and his friend Pancake chuckles.

Pancake is a force of nature. The thrown bag of flour
bursts, just as the spontaneous milk ejaculates

meeting an egg, and he comes into being: fryingpanned,
flipped, with scoops of vanilla and a squirl of chocolate.

Hat comes cycling by, calm and cauliflower-eared,
whistling a melody both dignified and jocular.

Every day a different hat: the broadbrim, the bowler,
the yarmulke, the one like a detached shingle.

Whichever it is, Pancake loves it to death, watches
as it fails to fall off, whatever the wobble and jiggle.

Any hat will get you by, but the one for the job
gets you hired: the cap for the fool, trilby for the jackal.

When he accepts the assignment, Hat eats the contract.
Pancake keeps a skeleton key for the shackles.

©   Peter Daniels
First prize in the Ver Poets Competition 2010.


Shoreditch Orchid | Mr Luczinski Takes a Tram | The Pump | Hat and Pan

35 Benthal Road, London N16 7AR. 020 8806 6121. Email me