Can You Hear The People Sing?

They dwell in strange rooms
the murky recesses of affordability
barely buildings, bedrooms with sinks
chair pushed up against the door
flakes of lives flung everywhere
a curtain, a quilt – who can really say?

A bare bulb hangs in an open window
no shade inside from day or night
Still lives go on; the rudimentary,
ramshackle, clutching at homeliness
the need for shelter unites us all
a hotel, a shed – who can really say?

In bleak electric heat, so many sing
it’s a different song
all sing a different song
Some higher, happier
some lower, more desperate than mine
flowing on through these days and nights
a verse, a chorus – who can really say?

The lawless, surging, movement of cars
the self-possessed trains below the buildings
so many pairs of eyes journeying on
the things they’ve seen, things they still see
those minds, all varied, wrapped in their own stories
a tragedy, a fairytale – who can really say?

Market stalls, street-sellers in threading gloves
the inside world spills out, a necessity
pavements become malls dressed in winter veils
motorbikes slip ghost-like in and out of sight
drunks stumble in high-spirits from bar to bar
a wall, a urinal – who can really say?

In tall towers, in basement bunkers
so many singing their different songs
some sing of the joy of things
some sing only of the difficulty
the tunes flow through this city’s veins
a love song, a death’s lament – who can really say?

But can you?
can you hear the people sing?
the miserable, the quietly ecstatic
can you hear the people sing?

(Written in 2011, upon moving to London for the first time).

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