"We should not build around the dead city, like ants slowly raping a corpse; where taxis shuffle about a tenement blocks, it all ought just be left to rot."

- so said the Eyes, overlooking Athens from the Acropolis, wishing this messy corner of the modern world was stopped, silent and unseen. But then, this fist of fingers itched with a different twitch:

"True, lives hobble about below this grandeur where, once, blind prophets gained visions from their gods. In the image of a sad old cripple - limping on only by creating clever tools - they foresaw this, our future. And then, shrugging, sailed the Styx to Hades, wishing they could no longer walk, no longer see, no longer feel. So defeated, they did not even dare to dream in vanity of haunting us.

"Yet, eyes, see deeper still than the underworld of a dead city, mourning what's crumbled. For even cast in scaffolds, the columns up on the hills of Athens have just performed their usual duty: to rule the mind and the fist by visible beauty. A cheap trick of an architect! Or consider say this, their celebrated lie: that democracy and the gods can live together, that neither one nor both in their mix must die. Yet the vast hands of history wear rings made of cracked skulls, a billion for each finger; caked in blood, and labelled with the names of defeats and disasters, added to daily.

"And now new Athens sprawls below, ugly and unbold. Where once great gods thundered, slept and strolled, see a postcard picturing a palm-tree, here in this graveyard of land, without clarity or conclusion, and whilst the lightening bolt is unavailable to fist, admit that some form of record is still best forged by hand."


Quote of the day

Whoever saw, as many did, a whole city reduced to rubble - kilometers of streets on which there remained no trace of life, not even a cat, not even a homeless dog - emerged with a rather ironic attitude toward descriptions of the hell of the big city by contemporary poets, descriptions of the hell in their own souls. A real "wasteland" is much more terrible than any imaginary one. Whoever has not dwelt in the midst of horror and dread cannot know how strongly a witness and participant protests against himself, against his own neglect and egoism. Destruction and suffering are the school of social thought.

(Czesław Miłosz.)

For you to indulge me in the luxury of this confession, half of which you already know - that I am a man and not a fist, and that, frankly, too much have I sliced up this city, as easy as a cake - I should offer you some thing or other in return, friend. How about this?


City of Trees

The knives of youth scratch into your bark, O city of trees, their emblems for eternal love, and in a graveyard, your ground is dotted with the dregs of piss and puke; may deeper still reach your unpoisoned roots.

They find no reason not to call you home, those twitching birds, those scurrying squirrels, that the city still has left. While on whatever breeze, your branches still bend just enough - whether north or south or east or west - as about you human lives break human lives, over much much less. A religion that breathes only light and air: Your leaves attract no quarrel, no calamity, as they whisper ancient, rustling prayers. And in the city of excited light, of relentless sirens and tourist sights - Oak, Ash, Beech, Willow; your quiet names speak nothings to you.

Your tiny points of green dot a patchwork of grey, it's true: From thirty-five thousand feet you look like nothing much, hardly a city at all. With the gridded roads and groping scrapers, so tiny and so tall, under the in-flight and metal wings, there you race away. Indescribable things; in the dappling of your summer light, let a man sense something of a man's true height.


City of Hatred

"O City, city of hope and pain," asked I, the writing Fist, "when will I learn how to hate you again?

"London! Just a look over you, a listen to you, and the ways to hate you line up in a list.

  • The maurading dogs, snapping at feet.
  • The hypocrisy of fear and hurt, for we do not yet need reports like this.
  • The Friday night puke, still dotting the street.
  • The old shrew, moaning that she's late for her hair-do, should go first in the bus queue.
  • The sirens chasing the happy slappers, under hoods on stolen bikes down side-streets.
  • The boombox of the next beloved car, shouting of love clothes cars love in some song, almost drowning out stupidity and misery, and drowning the sound of the breeze rustling upon the leaves.
  • The piss-coated trunks of the remaining trees.
  • The hands of heat, palming dots of city dirt, slapping into sweats, itching the collar, clawing the neck.
  • Etc etc.
All things that might easily do the job. But they do not."

And the city does not answer. The church bells sing their chimes, of mysterious rites at mysterious times, while a child strolls the streets, made happy for the moment by an SMS text. All for her eyes, only, and then another and then the next. All day the planes plot graphs upon the sky, patterned with unknown cargoes of who's and why's. Surprise, city without answers; tonight I can only confess you my ignorance - something different, and harder to do, than the clichés of hate, or of hope, or of fists, or of fear, or of pain, that you may have gotten used to.


Fragments of a City

We walked home in masses, droves, knowing that somewhere beneath the streets, people were still trapped; still people dying down there in the tube trains, buried, still people escaping from tube trains, saved, still people being rescued, dragged from down there in the tube trains, hanging on... And still we walked on, directly above them, resolved to go on; still we phoned our friends, let them know we were safe; still we headed on our way, knowing homes awaited us.

We'd been warned about this from officials and politicians, told it was coming, told it was inevitable, that however many they caught, that however many flats full of chemicals and plans they found and caught and stopped, that it was coming. Before it came, we were resolved already to get through it, to go on. Some would act the fool, some be heroes, there would be the strong-minded and the trembling - perhaps all were to be found in part in each of us - still, we would each try to go on, resolved, through it.

Most of us came from our offices, left early, after a morning of texting non-stop from mobile phones, of office phones used for personal calls and no questions asked, of relentless non-work related emails, with all the deadlines suspended, a morning of TV streamed into laptops, of in-trays sliding to the corners of desks: instead the demands of the day became simple, became family, friends, lovers, husbands, wives; what counted was making contact, checking life was still life.

And so on the day a roof was ripped from a busying bus, on the day the lucky ones emerged from underground covered only in smoke, or cut only slightly, we were surrounded acutely with love. As the numbers of dead mounted, as the reports made clear this was no electrical fault, as the politicians quivered on our screens, the love for one another that is always there invisibly, in the background, the shadows, quiet and subtle, became a current circulating amongst us all, as we checked that each other were still alive; watched our Inboxes for new names, infinitely thankful as we read Colin, Peggy, Queeny, Karla, Rob, Amy, Kate, Mike, Rhian, Chris, Claire, Tom, Kim, Cindy, Adam.

And so we walked home above the dying, the struggling and the dead, who were still somewhere in blackness beneath our streets; we walked home thankful that others lived on; we walked passed the houses and estates and flats, not knowing which of the windows contained grieving widows, or which sobbing students, or which terrified children, the word orphan waiting for them on official forms.

Nor did we know behind which of the buildings were the bombers, which windows homed those who hated us, us there in the crowd, us there on the streets with our hidden love; the bombers whose eyes saw a city of seven million people as one, as one not deserving its love and its life. Somewhere their fists punched the air. Somewhere were those who judged to be on the number 30 bus that morning, or on the Piccadilly Line, or leaving a train at Edgware Road - that such a thing was sufficient reason for slaughter.

And so through the city of fragments, the city of the dead, of the grieving, of the dying, of the living, of the thankful, of the hateful, the city I walked home through to stare, to drink, to weep, to talk, to thank, the city of broken boundaries, where good and evil interlocked at random points, where nation and hope dissolved and recombined with each passing moment or person, where civilisation found its opposite, through the city circulated an invisible love; just for now, all I can do is tell you about it.