Leon Brown

The Captive’s Refrain

Now the travails of summer have been bled
To a distant, beached transparency,
Clarity sluices the mind with a rush of breeze,
Brittle leaves swirl in gutters.
Cool air, darkening evenings spent in furtive garrets.
Imaginary woodsmoke
Curls from exhumed hearths.
Now doubling as charnel houses
For the great property-owning democracy.

Idealised English blackberrying,
Mushrooming and crumpeting
Rear up – never to be consummated
Outside the fanciful mind.
Coy, unreal cosiness folds arms round the thoughtful,
The marginalised.
First warm and tender
Before squeezing out the dirt, hurt and doubt.

Meanwhile, down by the broken pier
The need to party harder reasserts itself
In those whose youth is trampled by the crow’s black foot
As the world creaks louder still,
The seagulls scream brassier;
All those gaudy lights blaze into insistent life
Glittering the waterfront
Where hedonism, money, pass through
Successions of perspiring impulses –
Waves of gyrating groins.

Sitting, reflecting at a café’s empty table,
Hypnotised by a cloying, creamy sun.
Clouds in the coffee infuse the morning brain,
Attitudes - fluctuating warmth and envy –
Ruminate on transitory lovers in the street,
Before thoughts turn to
Unwanted Christmases in ex-pat resorts.
Parents whose minds and bodies are running
On a lower flame.

Here at the café on the intersection
I watch the old man perch on the bench beside the church,
See the barber and thrift shops along London Road,
Am comforted homogeneity,
Affluence, have not entirely taken this town,
This living monument to youth and plenty.
For how long, though? Anyone’s guess.
Ah yes, ‘How long?’ Can you hear it yet again?
‘How long? How long? How long?’
whispers like the rising tide on shingle.
This is the mortal tune we chant ourselves to sleep with,
called the Captive’s refrain.


Leon Brown © September 2007