RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 FM- Episode 6

Tune in to Resonance 104.4 fm on Tuesday 19th February at 5pm for the sixth appointment with Raft, my radio programme in which we explore real and imaginary landscapes of the city.

Credits for this month’s episode:

The House Of The Last London- Written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio- Soundscapes by Bird Radio

“You Are The Moonlight”- Written and performed by Bird Radio

OIL SPILL, a poem written and recited by John Bently

A conversation in the studio with John Bently

“Camberwell Road” part of the forthcoming album “One Shoe Michael- A London Song-Cycle” written and performed by Bones and the Aft

ONCE UPON A TIME

Once upon a time

 

There was a street

There were alleys and dark corners

There were scratched surfaces and acrid walls

There were doorways that opened or remained shut

 

I saw a man on the street, and he knew the way it flowed.

He burrowed through the alleyways and whispered into the dark corners, until they whispered back to him their dirty story.

He touched the walls with his purple hands, and the walls gave way a little under his touch, revealing another layer below the surface, an intricate tangle of signs scratched into the damp stone, which he read through his fingertips like the blind.

When he knocked, all the doors would open to let him through, but sometimes, when I looked again, both him and the doorways were gone.

 

Once upon a time

 

people moved through, or stayed still

people walked and ran

people rode underground trains

people gazed into the past, scared about their future

people cried and people dreamed

 

I knew a story that moved through the city like a song.

Sometimes it would linger, gather in a pool like rainwater on the pavement, and on its surface the city would see its own face reflected, whole and brilliant against the sky.

The story could always find a way through the changing topography, it would never get lost or stuck where a wall suddenly rose to replace an alley.

It would dig and it would sow, and then- as it always happens- it would wait patiently for new shoots to sprout, while it remembered all the words it already knew one by one, so an not to lose any of them as the roaring days turned into nights.

The story spoke even when all other voices fell silent- too tired, too lonely or too scared. It would not stay quiet.

 

Once upon a time

 

a city heaved 

a city breathed its ages into the gasping mouths of the needy

a city nursed and a city cursed

a city carried 

a city abandoned 

a city killed and then brought back to life

 

The man sat on the same corner where he always sat, and his body was an armour with which he fought back erasure- a ring on every finger and a pen in each hand dripping purple words like blooming flowers onto the parched skin of the city. 

When you travel alone, you can see things come into sharp focus and new words form on your tongue, waiting to be released like birds form a cage.

The city will nurture its lost and lonely, sat on marble steps, falling asleep to the ringing of church bells, awakening to the hunger and the vision.

When all other eyes fall blind, it is the city’s orbits that will bind you to your spot on that same street corner, commit you to existence, day after day.

 

And then   you will open your mouth, and you too shall whisper:

“Once upon a time…”

 

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 FM- Episode 5

Tune in to Resonance 104.4 fm on Tuesday 15th January at 5pm for the fifth appointment with Raft, my radio programme in which we explore real and imaginary landscapes of the city.

Credits for this month’s episode:

Once Upon a Time- Written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio- Soundscapes by Bird Radio

A walk through Soho- With poet Jeremy Reed

“Flashes of Eye”- Written and performed by Bird Radio

THE HOSPITAL

It has been raining for days now.
Outside the walls of this room the city closes its eyes as it is washed clean of its excess, of its speed, of its tired exhaustion.
They stare out of the windows of buildings, buses and cars, wondering if it will ever stop. It has been raining for days now, and it shows no sign of relenting, just a steady downpour over the black cobbles and concrete slabs, until the mud hidden underground percolates through the cracks, flowing like a dark river over old pathways and passages, rewriting the geography of this city once again, contributing another layer to the perpetual urban sedimentation.

We were told that there was no room, but we entered anyway.

We walked through the only door left open, down the ramp and through the heavy velvet curtain that sealed us all in.

We listened and we cared, and we held each other’s gaze as we came and went, without fanfare nor permission- we simply turned up for the show.

Now we sit in this room, and listen to the thunder tearing through the night- because it must be night by now. 
And the rain falls on the other side of these walls that hold us together even as outside the day is turning, and the stories are falling apart.
We can’t remember how long we have been down here, walking over the smooth black cobbles of this shelter, our shared refuge. 
We know all its kinks and ridges, and we never trip on the steps as we cross through the threshold. 
We sit on chairs that are always laid out in front of a screen lit up by the many iterations of our dreams, testimonies of our actions, because of all the things we know for sure the first one is that doing good or bad are both better than doing nothing.

They told us there was no room- but we slid through the cracks, and washed the dried ink from the floor, and mended the roof, and painted the walls- until it appeared.

And when they told us we had to leave, we turned into hauntings, and they could not remove us.

So we stayed.

And now, outside, it has been raining for days.

We sit close and keep each other warm- this room can get cold at times- it’s the old brick walls, and the cobbled floors, and the draughts that always seem to find a way in through the curtain, through our reverie…

We tell each other stories, and we show each other the scars, and we look after the still open wounds. After all this is our hospital, where we come to mend.

Outside the water is pooling up, streaming past their windows, confining them all to their solitude. And the tall buildings are buckling under the weight of this downpour, their skinny elegance badly adjusted to the earthbound gravity of the water. 
A power cut plunges the city into darkness, and all movement ceases.
Apart from the patter of the rain, everything is silent.
And the thunder rips through the sky once again.
Inside our room we sit and listen, and watch the brightness of our vision illuminate the screen in front of our eyes- a brightness unaffected by power shortages.
When we entered, we did not know that a room is all you need to dream.
When we dreamt, we did not know that a dream is all you need to float.

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 FM- Episode 4

You can listen to Episode 4 here

Credits for this month’s episode:

The Hospital- Written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio-Soundscapes by Bird Radio

The Horse Hospital- a conversation with Roger K Burton, keeper of the Horse Hospital, a crucial home for the underground and avant-garde arts in London.

“Break The Law”- Written and performed by Bird Radio

THE GARDENER

It was a bright morning in London and I was walking along London Wall when an iron man caught my eye: folded over a small patch of soil- it too cast out of iron- and trapped in the shadow of concrete buildings, the gardener was kneeling, perpetually caught in the act of covering over a seed just laid into the ground. 

 

He was paying close attention, undeterred by the loud morning traffic all around him. Seeing beyond the hardened surface of the soil, he knew that in due time it too would yield to allow an inevitable sprouting. 

 

He was perfectly alone on a small patch of cement, surrounded by busy roads and tall buildings, tending to a wilderness just out of sight, but whose beat could be heard amidst the car engines and the constant roar of construction sites.

 

At lunchtime someone would join him, sitting on a bench next to him, staring proudly at the city being torn apart and built again in front of their eyes, at the buildings erected and collapsed, cumbersome vessels leading nowhere despite their vertical thrust, appearing and disappearing like ships in the fog. 

They would bite into their sandwich, eyes adrift into private reveries, quite blind to the sight of the folded iron man tending to his iron garden in the middle of a city that grew newer by the minute, ready to swallow.

 

And the gardener, himself unable to stir, would feel the shuffle of bodies whose shadows glided over him as they left, but his iron eyes remained locked in place, 

As the blind men climbed back into their offices to keep the pulse of the city racing along, the gardener’s gaze burrowed deeper and deeper into his small patch of iron soil, past the seed he had just laid- was it the first? The last?- until he could clearly see a tangle of roots beneath the pavement, kept alive by an intricate network of underground currents.

 

The gardener, folded in place, undeterred, kept tending to his garden, in the heart of a city confused by its own speed, interrupted in mid-sentence as new conversations rolled into the spaces left empty by the silencing of other voices.

 

Afternoons went by lazily, the din of cranes and drills and traffic slowly fading to an empty evening stillness that seemed to fall out of time with the dying of the light. 

Surfaces became mercurial again, volatile, revealing tears through which other stories could be glimpsed- other rhythms, other bodies, distant echoes.

The gardener remembered them all: the sounds, the voices, the movement of other bodies brushing past him as he waited for his seed to sprout. Even as everything turned hard and cold- his own skin blackened and hardened, his joints locked out of movement- he kept the warmth of his pursuit alive, tending to it with steady resolution and unmovable hope.

 

At night the streets fell silent and heavy, thick with a different kind of dreaming. 

The gardener, barely visible in the darkness, his iron figure like a shadow amongst all other shadows, looked at the iron soil that his hand had just smoothed over the seed he had laid. Even though he couldn’t see much he knew it was still there, and growing, and that what would sprout would be wild and bright, and resilient.