On St James's Street
I recognised the truth
When a drole acquaintenance remarked,
This was the place to go
When life felt a curse,
For however awful it felt
You were sure to find
Someone for whom it was worse.
This evening at five, as the sea was dark cobalt
And the sun sent its setting beams
Brilliantly above the already-night of the street,
I was lighthearted and all the passersby
Were valiant, strangers returning from work,
To flats in the side-streets' narrow houses.
They anticipated rest, or shopped for the ingredients
Of a supper they would enjoy
- watch their considered purchases in Somerfield -
Listening to the radio, or half-attending
To early evening television.
I was light-hearted, filled with a vague affection
For these homegoing workers,
Their youth holding the promise - true or false -
That life would not always be like this.
There would be less of the vacancy,
Loneliness held at bay
By the savour of delicatessen olives
Or a six o'clock glass of South African red,
The preparation of a solitary supper
And the prospect of distracting TV,
Or an arrangement at eight, finalised by mobile,
To meet others, equally valiant,
Fearing, or longing for, contact -
A relationship, a shared flat,
Living somewhere that the sun reaches,
A different job, a novel accepted, a break,
Something that will allow you to retreat with grace
From this achingly empty excitement of the street
As the shoplights, cafelights, street lights
Compensate the fading of the day
As you stride home, supper in a supermarket bag.