London Calling

It’s something about the way your streets shift at midnight
so no one ever really knows where they are when you ask them.

London, some nights, I think the cracks in your tarmac are kind of
     shaped like vaginas.

Some nights I think I can’t hack another pair of bloodshot eyes,
but tonight, London, I guess you still look all right.

So take another picture.

I want to be remembered rolling my eyes, high-fiving the sky
behind my back, cycling up the wet sloping spine of Pentonville
     Road at 3AM.

I want to be remembered rolling down your streets, their names
into the back of my brain like names of crushes or one night
ex-lovers or old school friends and sometimes, a combination of
     all of them.

Hey Harringay, I’m sorry I ate all your quinoa. Yeah that was me
     that stole your new lighter.

Hey Brixton, I’m sorry I missed you last Saturday, I heard you were

Dalston you reeled me in with that gleam in your eye, started off
     all brooding,
mysterious-like, cut me my first line, stayed up talking half the
     night under lime-
green graffiti, then I went outside and lost you to some girl who
     wrote for Vice Magazine.

Stoke Newington, I don’t remember what you did to me, but I
     think I kinda liked it.

Take my hand and we’ll climb up another crumbling rooftop, you
     can pretend
you’ve never been this high, and I’ll pretend I’ve never seen these

Take my hand and I’ll tell that frozen January we huddled against
     one another
when you turned me onto that liquid warmth they called tea, only
     I called it ‘English’,
and you called it ‘Builders’.

Take my hand and tell of how the drum and the bass came
     together and made sweet love—no, how they fucked in a
     basement in a Camberwell pub to the rhythm of amateur
     boxers smashing punching bags three floors above.

As the sun comes up, take another picture to preserve me.

I want to be remembered on these streets,
layer upon layer of spit and crushed Rizlas,
too many lives to keep track of
and faded footprints of all the minor gods
from the past 600 years.

Tell me how we’ve been making history since the day we got here.

And yes, Westminster that was me winking at you when I caught
     you kissing that girl in the balaclava.

Hey Bloomsbury, lean over and tell me again about how Jimi
once lived in this flat, how his spirit now splits its time between
and that pub by Russell Square.

Whisper how if we’re lucky, you might convince the ghost of
     Virginia Woolf to say hi through her Ikea blinds, how
     round the corner Aldous Huxley is giving us high-fives
chatting shit about his last gap year trip to Thailand.

Make me believe no one here really dies, they just dissolve into
     the pavement.

Tell me how in the end we’re all just pathetic name-dropping

How the secret to living here is the right proportion of learned
and unending wide-eyed wonder disguised behind frowns that are
     really no more
than tin can armour for sky scraper egos.

But London it was never about you.

You were never a destination,
just a vehicle to greater things.

You are everybody’s Somewhere Else.

Because in the end, what is the point of trying to fit in
in a town made of outsiders, a town with its fingers everywhere

London, you’re just the dude who let the world tattoo themselves
     all over his body.

And I am the bad idea gap year calligraphy on your lower back
that you thought meant ‘peace’ in Chinese but really says ‘otters’.

But you can’t quite bring yourself to get rid of me.
You know that right?

Because London, you’re a fuck-off mess,
but you’ll do for one more night.

by Stephanie Chan
first performed in solo show Foreigner Go Home (With Me), Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival (2012)


SELECTED POEMS: "You are Six Years Old and She is Teaching You How to Ride a Bicycle" >