Cities at work. The orange flashing lights on dustbin vans, the rhythmic hiss and sputter as the vehicle makes its way down a street, the saurian crunch and grind as refuse is compressed and fed into the hopper, a common sight, in a kind of mechanical ecology. Civic workers, leaving for night shifts. Contractors in overalls, maintaining the underground railway systems at night | mouths to feed. Smoke from incinerators and crematoria. The disks of sedimentation tanks at sewage plants. The city as mechanised organism, with media senses and digestive tract of enamel and plastic, cafeterias and public toilets, people’s taste and miles of sewers, points of intake and excreta. Mass living and the unique form of loneliness it produces, the melancholy of deserted playgrounds in the shadows of tower blocks at dusk, the goring cries of crows haunting the aerials and satellite dishes. The natural habitat of crowds, the headache of traffic flow and congestion. Rare moments of silence. Compilation of records, analyses of modes of behaviour, social trends, a gradual shift into digital existence, the streets eaten by their own images, filtered through maps and reviews on clubs. Funfair ride on the Northern Line, Vanity Fair on the Piccadilly Line, waltzers of stock exchanges and pantomime riots, shows on CCTV. The latest formation in a perpetual assembly. Pest control. Hygiene. Wealth. Crowd control. The lit stadia at night. The skyscraper in the architects’ promo, outlets for retail. Mood control. Purchases and services. A diet of images. Cultural effects. Security measures. News-feeds. Happiness.

Her particular interest was Persian carpets, and she was considering a trip to Iran. Although her income was modest, she had two very fine rugs in her flat, and she would often spend hours simply studying them. She was growing more knowledgeable about patterns, designs and motifs. She looked up. The driver announced delays. She sighed, and then returned to the book on her lap. There was a lovely photo of an antique carpet. What was it about the pattern that so satisfied her? What was it, made her wish to gaze and gaze? Some subtle dissatisfaction, called beauty?

 


from Semapolis | City of Signs
(series of poems, unfinished, 2012–present)

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