I kneel on the cold cobbles inside the shaft of light that pierces the darkness of the room, and I begin to unroll the heavy map, knees pinning one end in place while my whole body pushes against it, releasing new space, smoothing it over with the palms of my hands street by street.

The city appears under my body, flattened and unreal, like a board game, or a ouija board, waiting for a signal- a knock, the roll of a die- to conjure its buried motion. 

Reduced to the fibres of this roll of paper, I can almost grasp the entirety of its networks in one long gaze, fixed as they are, surrounded by darkness and caged within the boundaries of the sheet. 

I walk over over the city, paying attention not to smudge the lines, not to erase even the smallest of backstreets or buildings with a careless step. 

I reach the middle and I stop: from there I see it stretching towards all four cardinal points while I stand immobile as the demagnetised needle, unable to point due north, directionless. 

Although this compass will not help with the navigation, still I try to put the fragments back together and remember.

Remember what? 

The point of origin? The destination? 

Both seem the same- redundant- now that they have been excised from the jumbled and fractured narrative.

Is it now or then? When will this moment fall in step and reach towards the next?

Time lies in a heap of shattered bones and pulverised brick, a fine dust on the surface of the paper, without intention nor direction.

I wade over the city casting my shadow over neighbourhoods and street corners like a strange weather, and at every step the dust rises in small gusts, a vapour that carries with it the ages and a multitude of voices. 

I can hear a faint murmur of displacement, a lament that ceases as soon as the dust settles again, in new formations. 

I am guided by a constant searching sound: the scanning of the airwaves for a signal, the thick static pierced by a probe, propelled through unfathomed distances by instinct, by a gesture of physical memory- a familiar journey once undertaken with uncertain outcomes. The sound is everywhere around and inside me, it is what binds me to this place of darkness and partial light, it is what streams out of my eyes in their incessant forward thrust.

I move as if moved, drawn to a centre of gravity distinct from the one my body is accustomed to, relinquishing both desire and control. 

I sense the boundaries of the city growing further, invisibly, like roots underground, adding distance between my place in the middle and the darkness beyond. 

The first time I see him, he is a heap on the ground, shapeless in the near complete darkness and yet familiar in his appearance, a faceless roadside totem hinting at loss and displacement. His face is turned to the wall, and all I can see of him is the sediment that has gathered over his body through exposure. 

Along with many others, his presence breaches the streamlined order, interrupts the flow of the narrative just the time it takes for the arc to lose its meaning. And once seen, he cannot be unseen.

Like me, he is a strange weather formation, a gathering of clouds thickening and dispersing in the corner of many eyes seeking shelter from the imminent storm. 

His stillness is the stillness of time emptied of memory, unable to stretch just a little further to the next point along the story.

He feels the dark water rising coolly, seeping into his layers, making his bones damp, but he remains still, because he knows that there is no safety in movement anymore.

He has traveled across unimaginable distances in search for shelter, and, finding only this patch of cold ground, he has settled on it and made it his own, but waited until his skin turned the colour and temperature of the cold brick before calling it a home.

I see him again. 

This time he is standing in line, waiting for his turn to collect some food.

The long line stretches to the very edge of the road, where the bright lights of the passing traffic occasionally cast a spotlight on the multitude of dark shapes huddled together- and as the light move across, their combined shadows are lifted as one and cast as a vast, dark blanket over all that surrounds them- over the bright buildings and bright eyes of passers by- for just a moment erasing their unseeing.

Cup in hand, he moves to the steps of St Martins in the Field, and settles there awhile, the cold marble a brother to his cold bones. He shares his bread with the pigeons, and sees the city spinning around him, making him a shivering sun at its centre.

Back in his home on the street, he huddles and turns to brick once more, leaning on the wall that holds him benevolently, like a mother’s arm holds a baby in slumber. And before he falls asleep, he whispers his story to the street, to the night air and the white sky, to the lost and the broken, his words sliding through the cracks and under doors, all the way into the unhearing ears of the sleeping multitudes…


Once upon a time there was a whale who lost her way, and found herself swimming up the river, all the way to the centre of the city. 
The water was dense, the tidal pull strong, and the whale did not know that it was captured. It still dreamed of the sea, as people began to gather on all the bridges of the city, trying to catch a glimpse of it. 
The whale breathed and stared at the people staring back at her with wide eyes and gaping mouths, until breathing became distressing, a hopeless drawing of dry air into cracking membranes, the slow shrinking away of life. 
An unearthly silence descended over the river.
And the people, enveloped in their stunned silence, unknowingly paid witness to the death of miracle, right in front of their un-seeing eyes, as the tide shrunk away to expose the undreaming carcass.
In the whale’s deep eye one could see the lights of the tall glass buildings that towered over her appear like an image impressed on a wet glass plate, gaining in opacity as the whale’s gaze turned hollow and remote. 
It was dark when the first people walked away, shuffling along the bridge reluctantly, as though released from a spell, one whose broken promise intoxicated. 
And when the tide folded itself like a sheet over the unmoving shape of the whale, gently washing by the banks of the river, there was nobody left to watch it disappear like a half remembered dream, our own image fixed forever on the surface of its dark, unblinking eyes.
This fairytale is a warning.
When we walk on the riverbank, the shattered bones that we glean in the sand will be the fragments of our own forgotten miracles, broken into small pieces so that we may finally see them.
Not knowing yet what the rest will be, we shall gather those pieces and re-member the songs that we wanted to sing, then put them back in our mouths so that they may keep us on the side of the human.
Our hands will be dirty from the job of unearthing the fragments- some of them rusting, some of them eroded to almost nothing. And the river’s dampness will percolate through the pores in our skin until we too will become a little broken, a little eroded, but never ashamed.
And then our song will rise, because with the digging comes the promise of a transgression across the ages, matter seeking matter through time and space on a journey with a sacred destination, a place in which to be delivered again, with the intention of asking for thanks and forgiveness upon arrival.
We will know that we are home when we find the embers, still smouldering in the shattered hearth. Removing the ash, we will blow until the pale heat twists into flames again.
We will stare into the fire like we did before, until the furious red glow burns itself into our eyes and erases all memory of the river, of the whale, of our stilled bodies looking down, of our unmoving hands, unable to protect the miracle.
We open our hands now, and inside them we find seed again.
What must we do now for this seed to sprout?

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 13

Listen here.

Credits for this month’s episode:

“The Whale” composed and performed by Zashiki Warashi Taiko & Flute duo

“The Whale and the Thames” Written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio

A conversation with Simon Seddon at Pollocks Toy Shop


The city has a deep mind hidden away from its body- recoiled from its muddy veins and sinews- a deep mind that holds itself apart like a secret incantation, only partly understood. It stirs in its tall glass womb, probing its own hidden depths to learn how deep it can burrow without flesh to bind it.

The deep mind sees the skin of the city, fragile paper shroud stretched by humble hands touched by the ages; it watches it tear and stain with the dirty small print of tiny bodies and brief lives that hardly leave a mark, and yet are caught, one way or another, in the fabric of this story. It tries to understand, but subtle interventions and  small transgressions cannot be deciphered by the deep mind, its synapses blinded by their own scope and ambition, missing the smallest signals like the smallest fish slipping through the trawling nets.

The city has a deep mind that watches it grow old, then young again, in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. It casts its shadow over the fractured ages that only the deep mind can grasp all at once, sweeping over them all like a cloud, teasing out what remains like splinters sticking out from unpolished wooden floorboards, absorbing them in the network.

The city has a deep mind that spins an invisible story, longer than all of the ages of the city put together. It started before the clay turned to brick, and now it lingers, unsure of what comes next because the signals have grown unclear. 

The city has a deep mind that dreams itself awake at night. 

It searches for its reflection on the slumbering dark waters of the flowing river, finding only the face of another- but somewhere deep beyond it a promise of itself, someday, when the visions of sleep become the bare white bones over which to start building anew.



The longer you dig, the further they burrow, these London bones.

Brittle and smooth, bleached by the tides, they rattle with every pull and heave. 

They float on the surface of the swollen river, exoskeletons given to the air, just beyond reach.

Unable to support motion, they drift with the currents instead, choking their spent stories down in the mud, until a tug draws them back to the light, sputtering, tattered and broken.

Mute runes, your discarded meaning will come alight again once pieced back together by fingers dirty from the digging.


They cut a hole inside the concrete floor in front of the tallest building, the one that casts its shadow over the belfry of the cathedral, dampening the ring of its bells.

Inside the hole, a tangle of roots, wet and hard, heaved, breathless from the burrowing, like sweating tissue inside an open wound.

A musty odour rolled out and over the pavement of the city towards the dark river, summoned by its changing tides, leaving a dark imprint on the white concrete as it flowed.

I stared into the hole at the roots.

Enveloped in darkness, clusters of light emerged like boats out at sea- fishing boats blinking their lights over a vast and immense expanse of space.

A city seen from above, in its complexity and multiplicity, flattened, unraveled, cast out as a net in which constellations are caught.

Like when observing a galaxy, more becomes visible the further away we get.

Moving vehicles are light signals, pulsating through the night, roads the lit-up arteries that connect urban organs together and keep them irrigated and alive.

When seen from above these electric networks appear as mystical and poetic systems, devoid of their mechanics.

Night reveals the delicate essence, the tenuous connections, but it also erases nuances: the small details need to be stumbled upon in order to become visible again.

Come back to the ground, and look up: the sky is never black, but a milky hue that absorbs all the light spilling out from streetlamps and windows, suffocating the stars, lost in that bright labyrinth.

And the roots that heave below the pavement, waiting for a crack to return and reclaim the surface with their throbbing, uncontainable grace.

Every little twig will burn.