Flight Path

Moments of the city layer over each other,
A quiet history of a decade spent around here.

H spilling his coffee at Richmond station 9 years ago.
That weekend in Twickenham had felt like the countryside,
Like the past.
The memory surprises me, but then,
I don’t come south west often enough to forget,
And I remember remembering at least one time before.

T’s hand on my back, that connection, on the Hammersmith and shitty,
of all places, Mile End.
How many thousands of times did I follow that route to Broadgate,
and back,
And still not forget?

The city hosts so many phantom touches,
indexed by TFL.
Sydenham for S, Hackney then Bow Church for A,
Finsbury Park for B,
and CN before she headed out to Gambia.
Hendon for M, Stanmore for C, just that once.

Thousands of stories follow me around,
changing direction can change the year, the month, the faces.
It’s time travel no GPS can track.

Venturing onto London Wall is to will that overdue confrontation with an old boss.

Bloomsbury is a village showing me the cold shoulder,
every few years another bookshop deserts me.

I’ve cried crossing Waterloo Bridge too many times to count.

Bishopsgate in 09 had me kettled on my lunch break.
Westminster, 2013, it happened again,
Shouting for badgers, against the BNP.
March after march the routes intersect
Battersea Park to Kings Cross, Kensington to Trafalgar Square,
dating me all the way back
to March 23, 2003.

I look up more frequently now,
tempted with escape every three minutes, 6am to 11pm.
It was years before I even heard the planes,
too concerned with the rumble of the tube,
rising up through the old Jewish cemetery,
muddling with the call to prayer.
Bancroft Road/Ocean Estate, stop E.
Busy on a Friday.

I thought I’d never leave.
Now I dream about it.
I’ll take the Bakerloo line to Paddington, platform 4.
Race the Friday crowd to my seat on the Great Western.
Become a visitor again.
A former Londoner,
defined by absence.

I’d ask you not to change, old friend,
be careful of my memories along the 25 bus route,
up the escalators at Angel,
but you’ve never stopped changing on me
challenging me to keep up with you.
You swallowed me whole and now you’ll spit me out,
laughing, as I swear to return,
a cheap promise
as I step out of my past.

Anna Amo