From David Kessel’s 1989 collection The Ivy, collected poems 1970 – 89.
In Finsbury Circus
This tree can teach me a lot if I let it
But am I ripe for it?
I am callow and cold-hearted and confused
but ripe for a gentle awakening
There is death all around – walking,
discordant, fearful death.
The tree has bargained its frail, beautiful leaves
with our death dealing,
the friendly sparrow, its song with our hard hearts;
a drunk, his wise, telling talk with shillings and pence.
What they teach me I burn against this human winter.
The deadly demanding director has rendered his blood
for a strange imperial glory.
The tree and the drunk are breathing deply.
What do we need besides murder and victory!
A Cockney cleaner moves home eastwards
into the bright slums of humanity.