It never oozed like Dean Street,
where the blooded wet the steps of the Soho Theatre
and splay across railings in chemical light.
My morning walk would pivot on a glow at
Cambridge Circus, hop the clean cobbles
and swing a blind right off the Prince Edward
to dance in the glance of a girl’s streaky face,
lost to the ground as she drags her night case.
The morning is fresh and a paunchy old man
is cheering the doorway of San Valentino’s
with a steaming cup and a clean, chatty lass;
a hairdresser is sluicing the fair walls of Fordhams as
his neighbour swills the steps of L’Escargot.
We pass like cars, we all pass like cars –
a glance at a girl who clocked me first,
her feral eyes cast as we shoulder by,
her jeans wrinkling on mechanical folds,
as she crosses the dull, dumb, slumbering square.
And it was never stripped like Berwick Street,
where my schoolmate Andy was once propositioned
in the seventies, asking for an A to Z.
On late summer days the grass is camped
with bodies that coalesce in buttered sun,
gazing and teasing, laying and dreaming,
the orange builders bent on benches,
staring out upon tabloid desire.
Late afternoon drifts into play,
pubs brighten, cafes die –
glasses awash in The Pillars of Hercules and
a rush of heels to the Montague Pike.
I’m back in the road to break the crush,
cycle bells swearing as I peel to the gutter
and weave the scaffold on the College of Fashion,
and heave through the heat at Maison Touareg
and cut back to the cobbles where heels now wobble
to the Palace brass and stills of the cast.
And it was never trussed like Old Compton Street,
where chain pulls at leather and grips bodyline.
Greek Street was a promise for loose imaginations
to enter a gentle, unscripted erotic,
warm to the skin on the steps of Zebrano,
and a sparring in the Gay Hussar,
to an amber rising through the whiskies in Milroys,
to a street clogged with bright night dwellers –
women alive, pulsing men,
to tobacco piped from the hubble-bubble,
to a brick-dust hold in a shadowed corner,
trailed with rickshaws, arms, a clasp.
This? This is a bad farewell,
a violent dash, an elbow fight,
another move, some other door.
Will I miss these soft temptations?
I must break their bonds, gender release.
Save the colour, the clamour, the candour.