In Victoria Coach Station

Exhaust fumes, urine, immemorial cigarettes –
A reek even freezing cold cannot dispel;
Passengers in groups, in queues, in seats
As the Rapide from unsunny Carlisle
Flexes brakes, with faces in a sullen row
The coach for Coventry prepares to go...

By the railings a mouth works up-and-down
At the universe and no one, the man
Attached identikit twentyish, lean.
The radiation he emits is all his own.
Studs like Braille, his jacket reads ‘Exterminator’ –
Fashion advertising a wide berth.

Daubed beneath, as if for bad measure,
Is ‘Chaos Day, March 4, 1996,’
The tatty dictat, ‘Letís start a war’.
Self-picked anti-hero in a B-movie
He cannot, thank Heaven, control, lack of script
Recasts him as sidewalk nihilist,

Bystander furioso whose mutters
Complement the chains about his wrist
And waist, spiky violet-tinged clusters
That are his hair. Minutes bristle. In a twist
He has not envisaged, a squad-car
Pulls up. “May we look inside your bag, sir?”

Misted breath. “None of your fucking business...”
This the expected give-away. Snap search.
Routine interrogation. One man’s mess
Others’ law, he’s led away. Also a bystander,
Though seated, here from the 5:10 for Digbeth
I shuffle sight with words, a verbose voyeur:

Have mercy upon policemen, punks and poets,
O Lord. Defend each of us from over-
righteousness; though this bus is no Chariot
Of fire and our Arrows of desire are
Blunted, somewhere amidst the fume-bleared concrete
A dream of Jerusalem, that Countenance, those feet...



Martin Bennett | Mudlark No. 12
Contents | À Une Femme Africaine