To Go to NuL
After “To Go to S’pore” by Alvin Pang, after “To Go to Lvov” by Adam Zagajewski
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire − always “the proper Newcastle” to me
To go to NuL. No station in NuL,
except the arena for buses, all fume and light
after dark when you stand on wet pavement
and other passengers clatter away.
To go to NuL without remembering street names
but surefoot towards the suburbs. To grow up in NuL.
To have learned to read in a fug of stories,
those spoken, those inferred. I stand as a child
looking between the slats in the cattle market,
stand as a man between pubs thinking of
slurs and arrogance of my youth, walk
with exhaustion heavy round ears and eyes
into a curry house long converted, and order
something I cannot remember. To come to NuL
a visitor, unable to find my friends,
or drift into nostalgia postcards, crossing tramlines
and entering shops where the whole family
stands rigid in front of their shelves, into
the structures of a map that blacklines roads I know
are knit with shrubberies and trees. I remember
the bloom of Christmas merry-go-rounds,
picking up blues cassettes, and the hours
after the nightclubs closed, when roads spread sickly tongues.
Laughing there, kissing girls, coming home to
a steam of dinner, tea and explanations.
How to be at home in NuL, again or then, the tiled hall,
the voices audible through sleep, to come
at last to accept the way it lies in the valley,
in deep memory, and is built up along roads
far out from its core. To go back again
into the town, in daylight, see how men stand
as if under siege, but bend to pet a dog –
not to forget NuL
except as all things fade on leaving.
Shortlisted in the 2013 Live Canon International Poetry Competition, and published in that year's anthology. © Mark Leech 2013