Lewisham and Harrow (with Daljit Nagra)

A collaborative poem between Jamie Hale and Daljit Nagra

The field here by day is throbbing. Drill-master ex-army
workouts, blonde women sprint with their buggies.
At night, the music is thrumming. Car-speaker bass.
I fight the desire to dance, the neighbour calls the cops.

During lockdown we go for walks in our park in Harrow,
some live on the Hill while most of us live down below
on the plains. I’m on the path and pass a man in Barbour
speak to his phone, ‘yes, the horse I once bought in Russia’.

J Here’s a striding space of grass. I look to London, modernity’s
spires strike upwards. The shard holds a cloud, a stag,
pierces sky on its antlers. The day, almost clear, is bright,
my dog sees a fox, pricks his ears, and pulls. I stop.

Boys in boaters and stripey blazers, weeping
willows, a view past Wembley Arch to the gherkin,
I’m up at Harrow on the Hill, I’m heading for a
pint at The Castle, the only place up here I’m ever inside.

The air is fresh nowhere here. I feel it – the smog,
an oily, dust in my lungs. But birds can bear it, I hear
the wild parakeet calling, calling. Tell me, friend
when did you last see an unbuilt skyline? Are you free?

You’ve a dog Jamie? We’ve a pup, a cockapoo
black with a snowy streak bearding his tum
to his chin, he’s all licky at every dog; a new
world of walkers befriend me and my mutt.

Small? Ours knows the greying world, long-nose
blue, white star, and socks. Career’s well-past,
unstoried, raced poorly on the tracks. His da
was famous, him not so much, but gentle and soft

Sounds of sports in Harrow Rec by the pavilion:
boundrry, boundrry stand at da boundrry, howzzzat?
the footie fields: Ref! Markup! Where’s your man.
Ours! Get tight on him. He’s there, at your back!

The sports up here are quieter – maybe I just
don’t pass by at their times. Yoga mats multiply
on the grass like desperate beach-towels
lusting against the damp for the warmth of winter sun

Yes we’ve the various mat crews throughout the day.
I assume those postures they project are for yoga:
the elderly folk walk for the park and at it till late,
I’ve a few years left before I join them to bend ov
er…ooh me coccyx,
I’m feeling seasick.

Steady up! It’s funny how our bodies are the same
London over – and yet so different. Funny also
how London itself is the same, and even our dogs
so different, so free, so loved, are somehow the same.

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