Three poems by MA in Writing Student, Tony Gapper.
Stand Tall Camden Plaza
The Camden Plaza
during its latter decades
produced such acquired-taste allure:
Foreign sub-titled films
and occasional general release.
lavish cinematic furnishings,
London’s art-house finest.
With the faded word Plaza embossed on its
Terrazzo-mosaic patterned entrance floor.
It propped up nostalgia for me
like watching Dracula on the big screen
and drawn to repeats of Jungle Book.
A spacious auditorium
seat 340 with ease,
the ice-cream lady
served tubs and pop
under a red torch-glare.
Uncle Peter gave 30 tireless years:
climbed every single working day
up spiral wrought-iron stairs
unlocked an isolated projection-room,
so immensely proud of his lifelong work.
Ran 35 mm reels
the projector’s gentle vibrating hum,
turned a curvy lens-wheel
flickered through ordered metallic tapes
and promotional debuts.
But the Landlord trebled the rent
masterminded a fiendish ploy
to let this listed building
fall into disrepair!
Camden communities tirelessly marched
waving symbolic banners
ranting and raving
to restore Camden Plaza
not just for movie buffs,
but to boost local employment.
To contribute once more to Camden’s legacy of culture.
Yet despite valiant efforts
the final curtain closed on 29th September 1994!
Our two closely-knit families,
all beach-inspired smiles and glimmers
begin our short, gradient-tempered amble.
We cross at the Ostan Gweedore Hotel intersection
with its award-winning Ocean Restaurant.
Our sense of smell heightened by
the servings of spikey lobster and steamed salmon,
fresh meats and poultry sizzling
an intermingling waft of
Western Atlantic drift.
Our anticipated sea-path descent
holiday-attired tee-shirts and shorts,
the plasticy smell of a beachball,
squeaky subtle clatter of buckets and spades.
Adults hump weighted bags of food and drink,
wipes and nappies, fleeces and summer jackets.
Our only toddler girl at the time, Erin, clutching our hands,
our three nephews and niece arm-linking,
skipping merrily along, not a bother.
Wondrous carefree days,
sea-winds lash our hair and bodies,
its flickering salty-spray cooling
against sun-bleached skins.
Inlet, evident now
overlooks bluish-tinge curvature,
floury-textured, blue-flag sands,
reminiscent of this breath-taking landscape.
We select our picnic area devoid of wind-breakers,
spread wide our blankets and belongings
close enough to the oceans, but not too open either.
In between sand-dunes with their prickly dried grass
and the ocean, washing over its worm-riddled saturated sands.
Unflasking the coffee cap,
and reaching for the plastic-white party cups
pouring out coffee and pop drinks,
tiny hamper of sandwiches and crisps,
plonking uneven sandcastles with dull stones,
skinny bright flags and a swamped moat.
Beneath a humidly hot sun
we paddle in wind-lashed bitter swells,
and swim out before lunchtime,
lounging in its clear chilly depths.
Bad Eddie’s Boat:
Shipwrecked, anchorless flotsam
through unforgiving early 1970s storm-surges.
yet our nephews and niece clamber its decks, as children do,
Side-stepping, manning the lifeboats, searching for treasure, captaining the ship.
Sometimes stumbling over wood-chip-pulp, scrapping a sore graze, or swelling a bruise.
Eroded splinterings – such mishappen timber
from the rummages of elemental, sun-scorched corrosion!
Blasts of spidery surf,
a stone’s throw from the water’s edge –
coils of stringy, sea-weed-saddled moss
undulates rugged, sea-churned rockery.
Fat, upturned crab
hazy under shallow glare.
shape of men casts threadbare nets
sea trout slip and slide like eels,
our families swim at a comfortable distance from the shore,
the sodium-sunburnt patches
offsets the soothing-milky suncream lotion,
sitting and kneeling, we relish afternoon snacks and tea.
Seagulls hover, their ghostly screeches
skydive only to synchronise into familiar
wayward aesthetic spirals,
against backdrop of mountain silhouettes
curves away into distant horizons.
Our families, recharging our batteries
beach-weary smiles and glimmers
recommencing our short, gradient-tempered amble.
Ghost-stricken eerie nightmares,
my first recollections, as a tiny boy, convinced
that a monstrous terror lurked within this tunnel.
My Mother often took me to the tube station
to lay rest – such demons of fear,
witness no gargantuan dragon-like beast
unleashed from its chilly abyss.
Despite rumbling echoes and the squealing ecstasy of
screeching brakes, the incessant motor hum,
our eyes probed like two detectives
standing on an uncrowded platform.
Memories like a tube snake through,
a silvery-white train jerks to a halt inside a tunnel,
carriage lights flickers on and off,
darkness riddles through the weighted carriages,
dank with clammy perspiration and gasping.
Self-mutterings – “must be more to life than this, surely?”
Homeward journeys less urgent, no deadlined 9.00 a.m. start.
Another train, another day,
whisks a myriad of people to uninspiring destinations.
The drone of its engines builds up with rocket-like momentum
to vanish into a darkening curvature.
Living the London rat-race,
Herculean decades of balancing
unreconciled ledgers to audit-worthy levels,
driving career aspirations
to new and vibrant ‘taken-for-granted’ heights.
Blank zombie faces chat only within their cliques.
Passengers anxiously watch the tunnel
to pre-determine where the train would probably stop.
I feel the rumbling foremost
then the glare of headlamps.
All notable items are fastened away, zipped up, pressed into bags,
flipped into jacket or trouser pockets.
“Excuse me! I was first!” Implores a man
in a bowler hat, silvery suit and dapper-pink tiepin,
umbrella neatly cocooned in its sheath.
Platform bloats to capacity
nurtures a health and safety misdemeanour.
A lone rail worker blows a whistle
zealous as his local five-a-side footy referee.
The train glides to a shuddering halt
thrusting bodies, scrum-locked.
Overhead signage-light rolls across like a teleprinter script,
bright yellow pixels flash: “Baker Street –signal failure”.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Doors fling open, passengers jostle to alight
before others thrust and shove to board.
“Why can’t people be civil?”
An inner voice screams.
Unflinching eyeballs, subtle sighs and curses.
Aboard – commuters straight-jacket bound –
surging ever-forwards and sideways, clambering and scuffling,
standing room only.
Expressionless faces mime
a monotonous farce of un-togetherness,
newspapers’ double-pages folded outwards
marks their personal territory.
A Romanian gypsy woman trudges the carriages,
her wicker basket looms and
with outstretched hand and beckoning hoarse voice
the odd passenger flings in a coin or two,
a child caked in solitude wails by her side.
In an adjacant seat, man cuddles his fidgety girlfriend.
A boy flosses left over remnants of a chewy mint.
“All change please – this train’s out of service! All change please!”
“I just don’t believe this! What next?” I rasp.
down on the platforms
tramps swap their muffled jargon,
Tennants Super cans split, crunched up.
Odours of half-eaten cheeseburgers,
and a subtle whiff of urine linger,
a discarded whisky bottle spins unperturbed
on this desolate bench.
A woman clears her throat,
while youngsters mouth obscenities.
Tony Gapper from London, resides in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Published widely including: Arrival Press, 1993, 1997; Poetry Now, 1993-1995, 1997; Anchor Books, 1995; North West London Newspapers, Letter of the Week/Poem, 1994; Enfield Friends of the Earth, 1995; Bookmark Publications, 1997; Creative Writing.ie, 2014-2015, short stories/poetry: The Galway Review, poetry, 2015; Interflora’s Little E-Book of Romantic Verse, 2015 and Brain Teaser, Sin Newspaper (NUIG), 2015. In October 2014, recited short story/poetry at Books Are My Bag event (Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Galway), and poetry (Over the Edge Open Reading). I am presently undertaking an M.A. (Writing) at NUI, Galway.