In the car park, there are old men crying.
They are holding onto one another like poplars.
You tumble like them, like freshwater,
from the coach station. Leave the greens of Golders
behind you. You are back where it begins.
Temple Fortune. Gospel Oak.
The names are holy but the streets are far from that.
Towns with prayers in their pockets, a hum at the back
of their throats. A hand span between North and West,
the stretch of a limb, the arch of hills, to bring forth
an ache from calves, weigh upon our paths.
From Mills to Primroses, we wear geography on our skins.
A tally of belonging.
The dreamers forget but the North remembers.
Its nightshade kiss. Lips Brent-blue as the base of a flame. The spiced scent of black beans rising
like incense from the market. Amy’s statue looming over, unimpressed as ever. Hand on hip, a rose the colour
of a wound nestled in her beehive.
Her stone smirk a shared secret.
The Beast of Barnet. They said we were lying.
An escaped big cat roaming Cricklewood streets.
Round here, we deal in myths & half-truths.
Sometimes the best place for a myth is London Zoo.
Your footfall is a procession of history.
Trace the familiar womb of 98 to Russell Square.
This is what forgiveness smells like. Roll the names
of new shops & faces under your tongue.
Change stings the buds. A kind of back-handed love.
It’s a test with no correct answer.
We are always one priority seat away from disappearing.
We will lose it all to Foxtons & foxes,
these amber-tailed warnings of what’s come.
Where mods once stalked, the moss now grows.
Edgware Road’s Grape & Mint layali will dissolve
into the granulated loss of coffee grains.
We leave or we are left behind.
But what is ours will always be ours.
The river’s heart line across your palms.
An artery awash with stories.
I wish for you nothing but this.
The kind of inheritance you deserve.
The beauty of impermanence.
The quiet love of men in internet cafes.
The murmur of launderettes.
Schoolchildren staking their claims over the top decks
of buses, their diamanté earrings glinting
like a conquistador’s helmet.
Make your slow diasporas through Neasden narrow lanes,
steal the night’s milk & drag yourself northwards
sure as a needle’s compass.
These parts aren’t what they used to be.
But neither are you.
Momtaza MehriMomtaza Mehri is a British-Somali poet, essayist and editor, and is the current Young People’s Laureate for London.
Her work has been featured in Poetry Review, BuzzFeed, BBC Radio 4, Vogue and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space.
She is a Complete Works Fellow, and winner of the 2017 Out-Spoken Page Poetry Prize and the 2018 Brunel African Poetry Prize. She was third place in the 2017 National Poetry Competition.
Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer was published as part of the New Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. Her poems also feature in Ten: Poets of the New Generation, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2017.
Image Credit: Lee Townsend