A poem, “Living in Hackney”

Living in Hackney –
Is like Rome: it’s where all the roads lead –
In a towerblock standing high as a nosebleed
A young urban Virgil composes the poetry
With his pen diligent, of East Londinium –
Sketches the Town Hall’s pavilion majestic,
As, by its steps, move civilians eclectic;
Villains and detectives,
Evangelicals and sceptics,
Skinheads and immigrants, the spectrum
From the dole queue to the high-roll businessmen,
Whole continuum of citizens; Virgil
Watches as youths boom tunes from their chariots,
Soundtracks for black moods, tracksuited garrisons,
Sees young maidens with their babes in Victoria’s
Park where a stroll blows their woes off like sawdust –
Tastes with his nasal the Turkish cuisine, a
Dinner being finished that is fitting of a Caesar;
Difficult to see the –
Village’s marshes
Where there is a duel with a ball and two arches;
Gladiators, animated, wearing
Shields over their shins; Virgil returns to
The main street, where the roadworks spring eternal,
Street where the lights from the grocery burn all
Night, and Virgil notes in his journal:
“If the world’s a Coliseum, Hackney is Maximus:
Town where, even without fare, you can catch a bus,
Where the train line’s almost as high as a viaduct;
Can’t beat it for the quiet life or the riotous
Pubs or the breakfasts; none quite fry it up
Like Hackney! –
Unlike Rome, never conquered,
Never mastered, may you march ever onward –
Hackney: unlike Rome, never conquered –
Never mastered, may you march ever onward.”

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