I ride the white elephant through Westfield kicking up dandelions as I go
scrub of grass ditch, brambles, breathing chlorophyll into the dank silver
grey that surrounds. A sign jammed onto a pole on the green: “Land
owned by SBD Ltd. Pedestrians use at their own risk. The management
will not accept responsibility for any damage, accidents or losses”. The
air smells of burnt rubber, my toes are numb, I watch my city burn in
the cold fire. Stratford, “International”. The Olympic Legacy, a trough
for Westfield, they’re the pigs, we’re the food. I wonder how often the
International station of Newham is used, mainline into Tiger, “Here
East”, a lifeless limb of the river with pedalos shaped like swans that
l google Stratford International and I am told that people also often ask:
“Why is it called Stratford International?”
“Stratford International is a National Rail station in Stratford and a
separate Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station nearby, located in East
Village in London. Despite its name, no international services call at
the station; plans for it to be served by Eurostar trains in and beyond
the London Olympics never came to fruition. The original intended
purpose of Stratford International station was to act as the London stop
for regional Eurostar trains bypassing St Pancras and continuing to
other destinations in Britain. However, Eurostar could not stop during
the 2012 London Olympics … Critics derided the station as a white
elephant. The minutes [of some meeting, I’m not sure what] also said
Westfield was disappointed with Eurostar’s decision and believe it will
hamper local trade. ” (Wikipedia, 2020)
In Athens, the old Olympic airport sits derelict and destroyed –
abandoned Olympic planes lazing on an air strip out the back, at the
front, a concrete approach made for screeching doughnuts and driving
lessons. Burnt out clutches of the state. At some point in the desert of
2015-2017 after Europe closed its borders to Greece, the arrivals
terminal “sprung” a makeshift refugee camp, thousands of adults and
children living in tents, little sanitation, no state care. Now cleared,
deemed “unfit for human habitation”, boarded up with flimsy Heras
fencing & the dark Fuck Off of broken glass, burnt out windows,
crumpled metal and sooty ground, romanticised by the beating sun.
Those that lived here were moved on to temporary housing, to camps
or squats, and then just moved on: out of site, out of mind, living out a
social death elsewhere.
Step out of Stratford station and underneath the Welcome to Newham
sign people welcome you into their homes. Blankets, teddies and a rug
on the street. The boundaries are dematerialising, what public private
divide is this. Westfield is a wall of sparkles slamming right in front of
my face, perpetual Christmas, glittering specks scratching at my eye.
Visit Santa’s Secret Grotto! Where you and your whole family will be
magically transported to the North Pole.
A few meters away, the train I am still on runs alongside the Stratford
Centre, then the flyover lined with tents. Camping in the city; The
Management will not accept responsibility for any damage, accidents or
losses. Oh Sweet flow of global capital what wonderful legacies you
A mother and daughter sit across from me on my driverless train.
Russian I think, drinking cans of Desperado concealed in black plastic
bags. We remind you that drinking is not allowed on any of our routes.
Operators are monitoring this station.
I want to feel some sweetness dipped into me. Trust, intimacy and
A conversation between two bus drivers. Talking about one bus trapping
another at the depot, a failure in the timetabling, too close to one
another. Even the busses need space.
In Ireland I felt the urge to stick my fingers in the soil and eat it, barky
and peaty like burnt chocolate. It tasted of mud. London tastes of metal,
granite, falling on my face and eating gravel as a child. River Terrace
deposits apparently, Brick Earth, Alluvium.
Im a city baby. I’m a city, baby. Until I was 25 I thought if you peeled
back the surface of the city you’d find tarmac, gravel, and its concrete
guts until the centre of the earth. So deep was my indoctrination into
man’s domination over nature, stay put, these are your borders. Then
I spent a year working and living on land that had never been built on,
never been farmed on, and I learnt the magical realism of foot on land
vs foot on tarmac. Another year taught me how flimsy and powerful
papers are. The borders dematerialise as they occupy – its a paradox.
I pierce the thin skin, it bursts. I can feel the weeds breaking through
cracks in the pavement and licking at my finger tips. Tree roots
smashing pavements aside echo like bass in my chest.
Put your feet against this fence, lie on your back, arch it, place your
forehead into the ground, breathe in the air behind you. Jump up, two
feet on the floor, break into a walled garden at night, grab the soil push
it into your fingernails, touch yourself touch your lover lick the dirt its
yours to take. Fight the border fight enclosure fight alienation destroy
fences let the brambles grow. Sleep.
What do you see? I hear sea gulls that shouldn’t be here. Plants bearing
through concrete pillars, life forming through the cracks. My tongue soft
on the roof of my mouth, I breath their sunshine in. Feeling like I could
blend softly into my surroundings like these puddles in weird, still, in-
dustrial spaces of speculation and poorly graded soil. This
particular light piercing through buildings onto the afternoon windows
of the DLR. My fingers meet the individual fibres of the gentle carpet
of my seat. Weeds that have not yet been paved over, I see you. I slip
through the cracks and grow. Rui da silva in my head: You touch my
mind in special places… My heart races with you.. Many tongues
spilling out of my one tongue, greeting the yarrow, dandelions,
plantain, grasping at each other, entangled in our mutual saliva. The thin
film of this pierced skin gathering around the edges of my mouth, sweet
What happens that on some days I can feel this magic and allow the
incessant otherness and metallic tones to drop away? The puddle’s
wetness rolls my tongue back, knotting, awakening some stirring
wetness in me.
These days, I am learning softness. You’re grinding the enamel of your
teeth down, my dentist told me, before gagging me with a mouthful of
pink putty. Do it quickly before your benefits stop, she said, or you’ll
have to pay £130 for the pleasure. I choked on my tongue, but only when
I started having sweet dreams again did I realise there had just been
nightmares for months.
I’ve started to place something soft between my legs for them to hold, to
resist the hard grip of my crossed legs as they clench against any
possibility for desire. I stroke myself, unhinging from a vice-tight grip,
my roots unfurling, smashing pavements aside. Slipping and sliding on
the muddy verges that remain. Unfortunately, The Management accept
no responsibility for damages, accidents or losses. So most days I have
to keep my roots in, my knickers dry and my self-possession tightly