Westminster Bridge

With a red point Siamese on his shoulder
a solitary man crosses Westminster Bridge
and listens while Big Ben strikes
to a nation that yowls and yells like
a terrace full of hooligans, treating the city
to a proud chorus that carries far and wide
along the river: Europe, Europe, bye, bye, bye!

This is the island that is withdrawing
onto its own island, thinks the man sat down
in front of the screen in the Polish pub
on the night of the blind and hostile divorce,
watching as a very dapper Ukip gent –
stiff upper lip and stiff right arm – rams
his knuckle duster under Europe’s skirts.

In private they talk of towering walls
and impenetrable borders as lithe
hard bodies – Britannia rules the waves,
so scuttle the boats of those who don’t belong,
growls Joe on-the-dole Blow, nursing
his pint at the bar, or will this old realm
of ours never amount to anything again?

And it was in my dream that a zeppelin
floated high in the sky over Dover, said the man
with the Siamese on his shoulder, the hatch
flew open, a cruise missile shot out, the rider
on its nose whooped and waved his bowler,
bellowing, Come on baby, light my fire,
and let the whole damn continent tremble.

A solitary man crosses Westminster Bridge ,
reads to a loud meow the graffiti barking
Brexit-Brexit and hears the underworld
rattling its chains at Waterloo.
On the newspaper stands, the calendars
colour the new year in while an island
withdraws onto its own island.

 

 

Translation: David Colmer