POEMS 1998-2023: Squatting London

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Dorothy Road, Clapham Junction, Battersea, SW11 - Nested
Dorothy Road, Clapham

From the Seminal Collection
by Damian Bullen

Thro’ neon night & raucous roads,
A credit to style & the words on the street;
We hit Brixton Hill & the King of Sardinia,
Aging pub taken over by even older hippies,
Urban refuge for madmen & rejects;
My man Jimmy Van de Mere shows up,
I strutted with him downhill into Brixton,
Discussing life, & the fact that I’m homeless,
He gives me the shpiel of a property just open’d,
“Bastards made it squatter proof, s’yours mate…”
I’m just arriving as he is sick of London,
“Haven’t heard anything original for five years!”

Then let it begin
The greatest rock n roll show
Since Hendrix came to town
With a bag full of uppers, downers & all overs

The pills arrive with the Bognor crew,
Coke in the loo & handfuls of shrooms,
Classic acid to enhance the vibe,
Shady promoter skulks in the background,
Counting his cash with a glint in his eye;
The audience was ready as I took to the stage,
Lights so bright I couldn’t see the crowd,
Blasting thro’ tunes, back to front, top to bottom,
Strings melted to hand, fingers on easy groove,
Pepperland panache on an Entwistle roll,
Moments on stage like you’d never believe,
Psychic conversations & electric orgasms
Of a rock n roll nirvana… & then it was over
The birds came over as I merg’d with the crowd,
“Best band I’ve seen in years,” said the manager,
Everyone’s high on the drugs & the music,
Like rough-cut diamonds we shine with the stars.

A girl I gave some shrooms to sidles over,
“Fancy a smoke?” That’s what I call karma;
We leave the venue for the psychedelic night,
She’s an artist… Poets & Painters,
“Boets & Bainters,” said King George the First,
Sat in a post gig glow she cooks up chi,
Smoking the skunk in her funky kitchen,
Fit as fuck in an unkempt kinda way.

I love her to pieces!
I love the way she plays seventies classics
On a clarsach harp –
It gave me a hard on,
A musical hard on, that is.

We chat about life, drugs & music
“Wanna do some art!” she offers, “alright babe!”
She strips off her clothes, flips to hot pose,
I started to sketch her & thought, ‘what the hell
Am I drawin’ her for,’ & neatly suggested
A congress of the tiger, the cat or the deer.

Next day, detoxing on antioxidant,
Jimmy took me down to Clapham Junction;
Everyone passes thru here at some stage,
As I do today, not to see, but to stay –
In my house, perched on Dorothy Road
Alright, there’s no gas or electricity,
Water or modern-day accouterments –
But four hundred grand worth of property
Can’t be sniffed at… he shook my hand
& skipped up the road…

… I got my bearings

Battersea library at the top of my street,
Full of books & a grand old cinema for the footy,
Free calls on the phones down at the job center,
The spacious common just stone’s throw away,
I love my Bohemian paradise!
& Clapham is proper up & coming;
A cultural center, cool bars & the theaters,
Where Tuesday nights are ‘pay-what-you-can,’
A pound a play at the Latchmere & BAC,
&, on the road betwixt them,
A swimming pool with a slack front desk,
Free showers & a swim for whenever I want.

I turn’d the key, & entered rent free,
A tall stately home, like some cool caravan,
Put up my section six in the window,
Five grand fine or a few months in the nick
To anyone who tries to move me on;
Reliques of an artist clog the attic,
Soon decorating my wholesome abode,
Furnished by the streets & the Oasis shop,
Transported my bed in pieces on the busses,
No television to rot & shape my brain,
Just the snap & crackle of an open fire,
& Classic FM from a cheap shower radio,
&, when I want to leave my Bohemian paradise,
Just flash an old ticket to fly on the busses
Or jump on a train at the scurrying junction.

I have me a shave for a stroll round the town,
A poet’s night out, those random & aimless
Saunters thro’ cities which always roll good,
“Could you spend a day with no money at all
& still eat well & feel thoroughly entertain’d?”

I found myself at the Queen Elizabeth Hall,
Perched by the river in all it’s civic splendor,
Milling with punters – it must be the interval
I slip in amongst them, flow free to the music
(well would you buy a half-eaten sandwich);
Bert Jansch is having his 60th birthday
Picking so haunting, chaunting half-spoken,
Sound stylishly sandwich’d
By Bernard Butler & Jonny Marr,
The applause is astounding,
I leave the building…

I hop on a bus,
Little fuss,
My brain
Pretends to be elsewhere,
The few passengers
Watch me sit
A black woman
A young punk
Old man twiddles his tash

A young girl studies the Victorian Age;
I mention she should read Christina Rossetti,
Her mother says, “Oh yes, she was a poet wasn’t she?”
I agree as the bus climaxes at the Junction
& off I will wander, breath mist in the air.

There is a song the Stone Roses used to sing,
About Paris & the ’68 student uprising,
I hum it to myself as the night grows crisper,
Victorian terraces turning off their televisions
As I turned the key, & enter rent free
Repasting in my castle for the first time…


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