I know what you think of me.
That I am a ‘Has Been.’
An unremarkable inconvenience.
A passing through.
Can’t think of anywhere else,
On the way to, second choice rendezvous.
A suntrap, a wind tunnel
A polluted, choking, stone and concrete, asphalt funnel.
I’ll be the lesser man and take it in my stride
Let someone else have his or her moment,
For sure I’ve had many.
Mine is a quiet pride.
You just see an ordinary bloke.
But I’m working hard for you.
An escape from and gateway to
An artery pumping life into your London’s beating heart
Since way before your own humble start.
Once the only vital link between the pleasure and the purse
It’s me you’ll pass along before you amble through
That majestic arch called Admiralty
And stroll the rose pathway to see a Queen.
But I won’t brag like a ‘Knightsbridge’
Or turn my nose up like a ‘Mayfair’.
Or jostle you like an ‘Oxford’
Or tempt you like a ‘Bond’
Or pretend to be someone I’m not like a ‘Portobello’.
I’m neither a street, nor a road, nor an avenue, nor a lane.
I’m just a ‘The’.
From a song, a magazine,
A cigarette or a game,
You know my name.
Pounded by tourists lured by theatre lights
Pummeled by red buses spewing workers into the fire.
Thrashed by diesel cabs ferrying fashionable mobs.
Ground by midnight limousines hiding powdered faces behind tinted glass
Sighing as they slope through the doors of The Savoy,
As the last suburban trains rumble over Charing’s arches
Echoing with the beat of bodies in ecstatic release
Behind Heaven’s steel gates.
And just feet away in St Martin’s shadow
A forgotten voice asks
‘Where are those stars of yours tonight, Oscar?’
Let me caress you with tales of the palaces that rose where a sandwich shop stands.
And I’ll reveal the size and the make of the shoes of Huxley, Kipling and Woolf
I’ll tell you what it feels like to have your skin brushed by fine silk hems
And I’ll burn your ears with the secrets of sinners.
I’ve rubbed shoulders with kings
I’ve laughed with all manner of queens.
I’ve prayed for forgiveness and clemency.
And, if you dare to explore my fingers,
I’ll show you the real London.
I’m older than you
But, I feel like a young man welcoming the world.
I’ve seen so much
Yet I optimistically wait my renaissance.
As the tides of The Thames ebb and flow.
So you’ll come and so you’ll go.
But I’ll still be here, stoically grand.
Not street, not road, nor avenue, nor lane.
You know my name.
I am ‘The Strand.’