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