John O'Donoghue


London Sundays



Across the broad slabs where

Imposing gallery

And Georgian church nestle

(Or is that jostle?) close

To traffic hell and up-

Start fleapit, McDonald’s,

And Charing Cross’s two

Versions of the railway -

One all neon steel tile,

The other vaunted arches

Where litter bins cascade

And stragglers wait mute

Before the clock’s blankfaced

Omnipotence, time past

And time present waiting

Perhaps for time future -


Across the broad slabs of

Long-gone London Sundays

My narrow friends scuttle

Down the dark smoked funnel of

St Martin’s-in-the-Fields’

Cold crypt, the London map

Of dirt and grime etched on

Faces like the pigeon

Shit that’s almost mortar

In the brickwork of this

City’s darkest buildings.


I know some face by face,

The numbered hairs of soup-

Clagged beard and what the young

Ones call that geezer’s

Bobby Charlton Parting.

Not hard to number them.

I take my place amongst

The claques, the tat that’s

Standard issue for us tits,

Us doorstep milk snatchers,

Begrimed and anoraked

All round, the tables strewn

With London Sundays, trash

Magazines and empty

Polystyrene cups, crusts,

Sometimes the personal


Of ‘our gentlemen’.


Indifferent now to

Charity: it’s our right.

Once you’ve come this far, soup’s

All that’s keeping you from

Freezing off the booze and

Pegging out. Couldn’t skipper

This weather, although God

Help us, there’s those that do.


The girls, straight out of Blue

Peter, ladle out the soup

And tidy up, black plastic

Bags swallowing all

The debris. Through the dinge

And murmur, the peasouper

Of Old Horrible smoke

And an atmosphere thick

With decay, our last

Conspiracy, moves young

Fiona, a vision in

The choirstall, her red

Surplice left off for the

Crypt. The good angel sheds her

Her wings and walks. I give

A wink and make my way

To the front, a dud

Communicant whose state

Of grace down here doesn’t

Matter. I’m part of

The general confession

Of the age. I’ve crossed

Myself: there’s only me

To blame.

                Later the day-

Centre down by Waterloo

Where Brian and I scrabble

Away what remains of

The day ’til closing time

Comes round and off we go

Again, me to St Mungo’s

And him, well he’s under-

Neath the Arches, dreams all

Dreamt away.

                      The Sunday

Crowds are growing now, round

Leicester Square and up

By Shaftesbury Avenue,

Off to see a film or

The latest musical smash,

Buses lurching round

The weird system of their

Routes as I measure out

The slabs with practised,

Steady rhythm and am

Back before pure neon

Lights the city like

A liner cruising

The cold black ocean,

Flotsam dead along her bows.


O, all those London Sundays.




John O'Donoghue © 2007