Category Archives: London

Cold cold morning

November, and you stand in your mobcap
that hated worn black gown
look up at the big house, lit and warm
your tear-stained face pale as the mist
a mist cold as the employer that has told you to leave
leave the one job that feeds your family
family bereft of a father or sons to work
servant work you despised, literate girl that you are
work you so needed

Beggars can’t be choosers

But once the son of the house chose to court you
and you rebuffed him
your days there were numbered
have been sent home without a reference
on a chill winter morning
so you stand in your mobcap, your servant uniform
look up at the big house, lit and warm
weep for the hungry mouths at home
those so small sisters

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This poem has been written in response to a prompt at Dverse, where we are asked to respond to one of four paintings. I chose John Atkinson Grimshaws painting entitled A November Morning (1883). I looked at the painting (see below), saw the servant girl looking up and her story just came to me.

John Atkinson Grimshaw – Shipley Art Gallery. Title: November Morning, Knostrop Hall, Leeds. Date: 1883. Materials: oil on canvas. Dimensions: 61 x 86.4 cm. Source: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/november-morning-knostrop-hall-leeds-35520. I have changed the light and contrast of the original photo.

Friday Poem: The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

by Amy Lowell, 1874 – 1925  

West London, 1970s

Every morning the Tube
trains sparked their way across points and
through grubby fields
off to plunge deep into London

Every morning, a deafening of birds
massive dawn chorus
rambunctious, full, above all loud
louder that the traffic on an infant A40

Every morning, the sound of garage doors opening
bicycles and mopeds eased quietly out
Fathers heading off to shifts
in the factories two miles south

then back to sleep, to dream
teenage longings
waiting for the alarm
and the rush to school

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Tube Train

He stands, legs nonchalantly hooked
around the central pole,
clean pressed stovepipe jeans, battered Leather,
coloured spiky hair, life creased face,
lively eyes roving across fellow travellers.
We nod recognition, two observers on the night tube.
A tall Rasta joins at the next stop
dreadlocks tumbling from pirate scarf
drinking from a bottle swathed in paper
impervious to all.
Around us, Chinese teenagers sweet with Peter Pan charm
sated concert goers, weary tourists, glossy City traders.
These two self contained gentlemen rise above
embody the blunt London of my childhood.
Punk and Rasta.

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Lost City

Vanished cities, drowned, razed
desolation and grief done and dusted
Atlantis gone into to myth
Carthage, Mohenjo-daro, Great Zimbabwe
all left ruins to wander and wonder
in history’s depth lie others
lost in deserts, buried in forests, slipped into oceans
more will go as sea levels rise, storms devour

There are other ways to lose a city
I have lost mine, changed and changing
beyond what I once knew
foreign in my home town
I archeologise
observing layers buried by new wealth
(transitory puffs of global capital)
visualise the people that have moved on
as I have
refugees priced out, social-cleansed
living on the fringes
looking back to better times

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Tube Train

He stands, legs nonchalantly hooked
around the central pole,
clean pressed stovepipe jeans, battered Leather,
coloured spiky hair, life creased face,
lively eyes roving across fellow travellers.
We nod recognition, two observers on the night tube.
A tall Rasta joins at the next stop
dreadlocks tumbling from pirate scarf
drinking from a bottle swathed in paper
impervious to all.
Around us, Chinese teenagers sweet with Peter Pan charm
sated concert goers, weary tourists, glossy City traders.
These two self contained gentlemen rise above
embody the blunt London of my childhood.
Punk and Rasta.

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Friday poem: London Rain

London Rain

The rain of London pimples
The ebony street with white
And the neon lamps of London
Stain the canals of night
And the park becomes a jungle
In the alchemy of night.

My wishes turn to violent
Horses black as coal–
The randy mares of fancy,
The stallions of the soul–
Eager to take the fences
That fence about my soul.

Across the countless chimneys
The horses ride and across
The country to the channel
Where warning beacons toss,
To a place where God and No-God
Play at pitch and toss.

Whichever wins I am happy
For God will give me bliss
But No-God will absolve me
From all I do amiss
And I need not suffer conscience
If the world was made amiss.

Under God we can reckon
On pardon when we fall
But if we are under No-God
Nothing will matter at all,
Adultery and murder
Will count for nothing at all.

So reinforced by logic
As having nothing to lose
My lust goes riding horseback
To ravish where I choose,
To burgle all the turrets
Of beauty as I choose.

But now the rain gives over
Its dance upon the town,
Logic and lust together
Come dimly tumbling down,
And neither God nor No-God
Is either up or down.

The argument was wilful,
The alternatives untrue,
We need no metaphysics
To sanction what we do
Or to muffle us in comfort
From what we did not do.

Whether the living river
Began in bog or lake,
The world is what was given,
The world is what we make.
And we only can discover
Life in the life we make.

So let the water sizzle
Upon the gleaming slates,
There will be sunshine after
When the rain abates
And rain returning duly
When the sun abates.

My wishes now come homeward,
Their gallopings in vain,
Logic and lust are quiet,
And again it starts to rain;
Falling asleep I listen
To the falling London rain.

By Louis MacNeice

(The rhyming scheme is a b c b d b – with a repeat end word in lines four and six of each stanza).