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I ride the white elephant through Westfield kicking up dandelions as I go
Dunya Kalantery
Stratford International Train Station. Running along the road side is a

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

can’t swim.

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

and milky.

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