Van Gogh in Brixton

Van Gogh in Brixton was pubished by the Muswell Press in October 2013.

It can be purchased directly from the publisher here or from Amazon as a paperback or ebook here.


In Hackford Rd SW9,
there is a house where Van Gogh lived:
there is of course the high, obligatory, blue plaque,
but more importantly, the woman who lives there
has placed a vase of dried sunflowers in the window,
A nice touch that,
the blue plaque,
the sunflowers,
a little bit of green attracting sunlight
into a city garden.
Yet across the road at the school where I teach
– and the woman cleans -
There is a bunker
where the school keeper, keeps coal.

(Note: It was after this brief and apparently happy sojourn in  Hackford Rd, that the young Vincent set off for the Flemish coal mines, to one the unhappiest periods of his life.)



I must somehow attempt, attempt
To make permanent what I witnessed today:
A battered van stopped at the lights,
(I was in my own car, battered, in five lanes of overheating, stationary traffic)
I glanced across and saw two workmen,
(their vehicle indicated they were SOUTH WEST PLUMBERS –
a driver and his companion)
I saw them suddenly
slump back in their seats,
their heads lolling back, as if their necks were broken,
like battery hens at the end of their working life,
they lay like overalled corpses, laid out, mummified,
completely knackered by work.
I suppose the Tories who had set the scene
and New Labour who gratefully accepted it,
could take succour from this vignette –
no skivers here;
men in work, exhausted by work
and the backdrop, the glorious backdrop –
Look –
the new MI6 building rising like an empire,
and so many new offices, hundreds of them, all piled one on top of another like cars in a car dump
and everywhere
of real urban regeneration.
Here is the perfect free-fall, kaleidoscope, hold-me-forever image
held most dear by politicians,
cranes and building machinery, roads up,
loads of noise , a cacophony of activity,
all of this
Where Handel once composed.
And hundred of cars, organised at the lights,
Regimented like a Nuremburg rally,
criss-crossing at the seven crossings of Vauxhall Cross,
their windscreens and screenwipers in the sunlight like so many shining necklaces;
and all in perfect formation,
aka Leni Riefenstahl,
at the lights
like swanning schoolgirls,
groupies of the fascist,
As the sun hits the polluted river now like a spray of spent New Covent Garden violets.


Then the lights changed
and the plumbers were lost forever …
except that they began to haunt my mind:
where had I seen men in  that pose before?
Then I remembered, pictures of the Valley of the Kings,
Great heads, hewn out of rock,
blind, staring bleakly out
at nothing.
That was what I had witnessed at Vauxhall Cross today.