Vauxhall Cross

VAUXHALL CROSS
1.
I must somehow attempt, attempt …
to make permanent what I witnessed today:

A battered van stopped at the lights,

(I was in my own car, battered, in five lanes of overheating, stationary traffic)

I glanced across and saw two workmen,

(their vehicle indicated they were SOUTH WEST PLUMBERS -
a driver and his companion)

I saw them suddenly
slump back in their seats,
their heads lolling back, as if their necks were broken,
like battery hens at the end of their working life,
they lay like overalled corpses, laid out, mummified,
completely knackered by work.

I suppose the Tories who had set the scene
and New Labour who gratefully accepted it,
could take succour from this vignette -
no skivers here;
men in work, exhausted by work
and the backdrop, the glorious backdrop -

Look -
the new MI6 building rising like an empire,
and so many new offices, hundreds of them, all piled one on top of another like cars in a car dump
and everywhere

evidence

of real urban regeneration.

Here is the perfect free-fall, kaleidoscope, hold-me-forever image
held most dear by politicians,
cranes and building machinery, roads up,
loads of noise, a cacophony of activity,
all of this

where Handel once composed.

And hundreds of cars, organised at the lights,
regimented like a Nuremburg rally,
criss-crossing at the seven crossings of Vauxhall Cross,
their windscreens and screen wipers in the sunlight like so many shining necklaces;
all in perfect formation, aka Leni Riefenstahl, at the lights
like swanning schoolgirls, groupies of the fascist;

As the sun hits the polluted river… like a spray of spent New Covent Garden violets.
2.
Then the lights changed
and the plumbers were lost forever …
except that they began to haunt my mind:
where had I seen men in that pose before?
Then I remembered, pictures of the Valley of the Kings,
great heads, hewn out of rock,
blind, staring bleakly out
at nothing.

That was what I had witnessed at Vauxhall Cross today.

by SHAUN TRAYNOR

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