The middle-aged man with a plastic brace on his leg
sits in an overstuffed chair
in front of a television set, and he wears the soft,
shapeless clothing of the invalid,
the damaged athlete, the newly-redundant. His flat
is almost at the top
of one of the tower-blocks that rise above the railway
like giant menhirs,
and he can see the great gray crystal at Canary Wharf,
made hazy by distance,
whenever he chooses to turn his head. Right now
he is watching
an afternoon drama about the lives of ordinary folk
as they open doors
to small rooms, as they briskly walk from parking lot
and corner bus stop
to sweetshop and cafe and clinic, to the Anchor,
the Red Lion, the Trafalgar.
He is sad that his leg no longer does what he tells it,
sorry that his life will never
be much of an example, but suddenly he remembers
it's time for the World Cup
and tunes in. The apprehensive team from Scotland
lines up for the camera:
tomorrow they must cross the Channel to play Brazil
and all-but-certain defeat.
Don't come back too early, a pretty girl sings to them,
and he sings too.
Two women have left their building to wheel baby-prams
over the low hills
close to the railway: thousands of bicycle tires have made
a narrow furrow
along one side of the path they takea slash where grass
struggles to grow.
Not far away is the rusting body of an automobile:
its engine and tires,
its seats and bonnet and boot carried off; its windscreen
of safety glass
smashed into tiny cubes that are strewn about like salt:
finding nothing left to break, now leave it alone.
One woman says
You ought to thank God he's still aliveyou need to
get over it,
harping on about what's past and gone, about what's
not going to be.
The other woman coughs as she turns her face away:
I never did, she says.
Suddenly a gust of wind rises from the west: a lone gull,
hovering above them,
lets itself be carried away. The women stop, tuck hair
beneath their scarves,
glance down at their children, who are wide awake and silent.
The fat sun
has begun to set: its light tints the hood on each black pram