Sid Smith front page









London muttered in its slumbers

As the pre-med pulled me under.


Along gutters down drains,

Clattered like an anchor chain

As I soared

Over the roar of the Whitechapel Road,

Treading water

Above the Ripper’s favourite quarter

(Whose murders

They say betokened a surgeon’s),

And thought I saw

In the London Hospital far below . . .



. . . down in the morgue the Doctor leaning

Over women, softly breathing:

‘What is the meaning, the meaning, the meaning

Of ass and gash?

Her one and zero, semi-colon, exclamation mark, vowel and consonant, dot and dash –

And who dared brave

Alive this binocular gaze?’



From their watchstraps sleepers slide.

Likewise from the surgeon’s knife

Lost among these crowded wards,

Swinging doors, corridors,

Free of my flesh,

I’m bollock-less.



‘Hate,’ said the plughole.

‘Rage,’ cried the water pipes.

And from the toilet bowl

A belch of blood said, ‘Where are my tripes!’


But I was a fleshless soul

Saying, ‘Let me alone.’


‘Scatter and strew him,’

They cried, ‘so the wind blows through him,

And his soul unhoused

Wanders like ours.’


But I’d not dispute

With every murdered prostitute –



False eyelashes crawl

From each plughole;

From every sluice-room tap or spout

Crimson fingernails push out;

And all the walls are questionnaires

Stuck with interrogative pubic hairs.


‘May your grief end,’

I said, ‘out beyond the loo’s U-bend.’


But still from the plughole’s little prison,


And, ‘Go now to where he lies hidden!’


So, over the dead like sandbags

With their cheap rings, tin brooches, torn hats, sad handbags,

A barricade

Of flayed, splayed, lost, betrayed

Corpses obstructing

Alleys they fucked in,

I’m tracking back, back

To dig up Jack.



In Gynaecology

Women turn to me


That suck our guts like spaghetti strands,

Powder bones

Like merciless millstones,

Crush us

Like the double back tyres on London buses.


O women be good –

I have a mission from our sisterhood.



I found

That a great beauty ruled the town,

A striding figure

In robes like a river.


These filled the road.

In their folds

Bright fish, tin cans, gold coins;

Sun flecks, odd shoes, old bones;


With an intertidal

Whiff of urinal;

And drowned men tumbled there

To comfort her.



Where he wanders Wapping strand

Mussels squirt on either hand.

At Greenwich Reach this dapper walker

Opens oysters underwater.

He strolls alone the Millwall shore

Where liquid spills from winkle stalls –


And winks thus and tips his cap

Till shapes stir on the fish-shop slab

To watch Jack pass,

Flat faces pressing the glass.



I’ll tread

A road woven of my own breath,


From a whispered wish,

From a change of mind –


And climb

Till I am welcomed where,

Inventing with wings London’s limpid air,

Birds melt through

Illimitable blue.



Who’s he

Shook this shape from your belly tree?

Around, carnivorous eyes of rivals but

He plucked you from those hooks.

Bared like a butcher’s parcel,

Seeing his hard-on

All you wondered was

Oh, oh, is this what I have to want?


Now in Maternity

Clutch your bundle like an amputee.



Virginally shy,

I tried to hide my wet insides

(Full as an egg,

Frail as a Sainsbury’s plastic bag)

That multi-coloured

Fell out like a full cupboard,

The cut

Smelling of love.



Snug in bed

As meat in bread:


One whose woman smashed his skull in

For laughing when she started coming;

One thrashed by neighbours who overheard a

Sexual joy they thought was murder;

Or blind beggars who’d fought for a pitch

(Accidentally beating a passer-by to death with their white sticks);

Or two who collided crossing a street and fought like drowners and were crushed

By the Crouch End bus;

Or all those drowned in the Underground’s

Death camp crowds;


And one whose dick,

Fat tick, parasitic

Belly leech, feeds, feeds

Till I yearned to be free,


And thus, a homeless ghost,

Yearning and lost,

Roam these wards,

Stairs, halls, basement morgues,


And through to the nurses’ room

Where they wheel like a brass band and moo

Through tongueless tubes,

Dragging their burst

Lovers like an afterbirth.



Silk and scent

May dress the well,

He defies

Double flesh designed for lies.



Their rage

Shakes the Underground’s coloured cage

To unknown

Totteridge & Whetstone,


Upmister Bridge,

Never seen

Edmonton Green,

To Morden, Theydon Bois,

All its web’s far fixing points,

Because he visited with blood

Their outcast sisterhood.


Therefore we’ll sit,

Jostled under plague pits,

Nodding together

Past dry wells, vaults of gold, bricked-up cellars

Through upside down,

Buried, black, London town,


To bare his bones

And shame him like his shit on show.




All those years had the use of you?

On a train of London windows,

Through suburbs of rooms and beds like meadows,

How you galloped bareback both astride

Love’s curly-haired hide!



Where her finger

Touches the source of the river

I kneel to kiss. And kiss

The threads of her wrist

That move among weeds

In muddy Oxfordshire fields.


I pray over

The veins of her elbow,


The strong flow of her waist,


And bathe at last here

In her brown beard astride the sea.



Whose hair fills the quilt

On the bed in the house that Jack built?

Why does water flow so slow

From the big sink on the second floor?

And the room of whose shoes?

And why by the bath the dentist’s tools?

And damp as a pubic pad

Whence this wad in the shower trap?



Spying a spider in the bridal bed

Oh, his dilemma of disgust –

The live spider or the spider crushed!



The old go slower and slower

And here like bicycles at last fall over.

But bright-eyed

Under the high tide of his hair line,

(When searchlights found

Bombers swelling over London town,

And the bulging truncheon

Of some constable on point duty at a busy junction,

And bursting from earth the Tube between

Aldgate East and Stepney Green)

Girls’ flanks

Were tauter than motorbike petrol tanks,

Their lovely lack astride

Like the missing bit on women’s bikes.


The dick is homeless now

That he fought for once with the sweet girls of London town.



My heart exposed

Is chambered like a Chinese word.

My guts depict

The names of God in Arab script.

I’m a monochrome tome

Trailing a Playboy centrefold,

A page from Gray’s

But in a state of nature, though, without the names.



Says Jack, ‘This is my book,

I leave behind as

A bible for the finders.’



On my belly something like the words ‘I am’

Consisting of two little roundy bits and one long one.

Which is a sort of tap or spout

For venting madness out.




On a black beast

Steers through

Chambers of the gleaming Tube.

Bright, bright

Tiles and lights;

Black, black



Crotch mats,

Hidden, ridden rats or bats,

Ill-steered beasts

That strain the leash –


And howl by night,

When each to each are grappled tight.




To the lightest toes,

The deftest feet,


This wild street

Where none may go

Commands me to its shining floor.



I’ll take his hand

To scatter over Southend strand,

At their command.


I’ll grind his teeth

Deep in the dirt on Hampstead Heath,

Spill a parcel

Of tibia and metatarsal

At Walthamstow and Woolwich Arsenal,

Spread his knees

Wide to the tide by Surrey Quays,

And thus appease

Their ghosts’ unease.


And roll

His skull’s old three-holed bowling ball

From Soho to the Albert Hall

To slap his soul


Out of its gate

Into their hate.



As through a hospital robe

Her bare back shows,


The rich earth

And thick with England slides

Into the making tide.


O river enrobed,

Splendid in green and gold,

I spread my knees

Like you to the teeming seas.



Triangular as Africa the thatched

Forest of my pubic patch.


Now what beast runs free

Under its jungle canopy?



I will not listen

To the mouth I sit on

Unless it speaks

Of Rotherhithe and Limehouse Reach,


The river’s glinting lizard scales

That wrap

Men the Thames has loved to death,

And tells

How tides swell

The sliding thick

River like a dick.


Speak, you rich wet,

Whose sweetness splits my flesh.



Ride, wild stream,

Under our dreams.

You mock these streets

Like the running of beasts.



Our hearts

Tread alone the reddened dark

Deep where,

Most secret and most similar,

We pursue

Kindness, a home, the warm, the true.


No light, no light

But this universal appetite

At the blood drum –

Unless Jack’s razor edge should come.



A naked woman

Reclines across London.


A cut

Churns like gut.


A bare blade


Finds in flesh

A greater nakedness.


Thus I will consider

Three views of this river.



Desiring to be free

Of the veined wart that sickened me,

And instead

Brood the Earth’s egg,

Where the world’s

Axle turns,

The sky-tree



I’ll bestride

God’s unbearable eye,

The sun

We cannot look upon,


Diving clean

Into the river’s shining stream.



In fish-skin slippers

I skip across the river glitter,

Splashes snapping at

My ankles like a shark attack,

Man-trap or hang-man’s hatch –

Because this ditch is

Cunniligus for bridges.



Insoucantly as one might take a

Heathrow Airport travelator,

Passing black Embankment steps

(Water lifting like a dress),

Under loins of London bridges

(Whiffier than Oxfam britches),

I watch my lovers fall

Through petticoats of spreading foam,

Submerging there

Choked on a rope of woven air –

Because this sump

Makes London a cunt.



What got your tongue,

Dumb mouth among

Fish-hooks, cat-claws,

Cranked gears, sideways jaws,

Churning of meshed teeth?





My kiss

Would wear away lips.

I’d grope

And find bone.

Skinny as scissors

With my jigs and figures,

I’d dance on his grave until

Decay castrated him.



Tough                  As tree stumps

Back-tooth           Roots

Tight knot            Screw-slot

Bunched               Muscle cushion

Soft thumps         Of boxing gloves

Good nut              Cunt



The tide was down like trousers

So I crossed the rocks like razors

To poke in raggy pools that smelled of pee.

Then the moon silvered the sea

So the pools were mirrors,

With polyps, oysters, blind devourers –


Till I woke,

The sheet foaming over my throat.



I dreamed I waked

As lovers on my counterpane

Little as fingers, in single file,

Fell to their fate from my inner thigh.


I groped to a window. Thence I saw

The Thames above, around, below,

Whose all-enfolding waters were

Our common element like air.


A wind of water lifted flags,

Bubbles like balloons flew past,

And over neighbour buildings whirled

Drowned men instead of birds.



Out of my bowels

Wolf howls

All vowels

And I cry

“Who, how, why am I?”


The night is a mouth.

Through its roof

Grow fur roots.

And my own fur sprouts

Down into my mouth.


O night fanged with stars.

O moon, old molar

Loose in its jaw.

O stars, moon and all,

Snarl in your black maw –


Because our fur mouths

Together howl out

Till worlds shake

To Ladywell and Mortlake

And answers echo back

From Seven Sisters and Queen’s Park,


For we rouse

With our tongueless howls

The hereto voiceless crowds.


From the horizon

We hear them howling.



It’s a home’s heart,

Gold bar, new loaf, warm hearth.

Is hidden as the new moon

That nevertheless rules.

Gathers the world like an eye,

Then looks away.

Among her limbs like loaves

Is a caper or clove.

It’s where her curves

Tighten to a spiral, and at last merge;

Floats like a frisby where

Her lovely lack, propped on nothing, surfs on air.

God gave her dough

One fold more,

Though the seal

Never quite healed.

(Or did the Doctor

Cut Cupid’s wound across her?)

It’s the stair

That isn’t there,

A drowned mouth,

Little vowel, thatched house.

It’s lipped like a splash,

They will rock in its outwash;

And read between

Its nested parentheses;

And let it fly,

From limbs they hope to untie,

And revive

That sleepy middle eye,

Happy at

Her body’s welcome mat.




Ivy crawls

Hand over hand over hospital walls,

Out of its magician’s sleeves

Dealing handkerchiefs of leaves.


Where its hairy fingers grip

Thick across the hidden brick,

Dusty spiders on patrol

Inspect each shining parasol.



In the gardens, weak and slow,

Roses cold as crystals grow.

For thirst

They suck dirt.

Their food

Is sun, that pale soup.


Thin, in rags,

They shiver by the path

Where I run to my love

Sick with our rich blood.



We are sick of the muscular river

Black as a hen-night stripper,

Puddles in gutters that jump

To hug us like drunks,

Pigeons traffic has

Trampled to pads,

The Underground’s

Death-camp crowds –


And so,

Down alleys only cabbies know,

Till London’s tarmac scab

Runs out at last

In mud, rubbish in bushes,

Funny-coloured buses,

A ditch in which

Detumescent Durex drift,

We’ll take a wayward English lane

To sink a spade

Deep in the wicked Doctor’s grave.




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