London Underground (After Neil Hilborn)

I’ve written this poem preemptively for mental health awareness month, in which I will be performing at Soapbox in Milton Keynes.

This poem was heavily inspired from “OCD” by Neil Hilborn in his book Our Numbered Days and “Flying to Belfast 1977” by Craig Raine.

Craig Raine
(The Guardian)

Fun fact: I hate London. This poem comes from my journey between Euston and Shepherd’s Bush on the Underground last week.

I would not find myself in London unless it was for a good reason, like seeing poet Sabrina Benaim perform live. She was awesome.

NB: The extreme lack of punctuation is making my head go doolally but it’s to show how people who have OCD have a pattern in their own heads.


It was possible to wail
as I found a seat in the carriage;

my cerebral chatter slowed to a boil
snake tails toiling away

when you have OCD peace is a myth
like Perseus and Medusa –

writhing eyes. I squirmed at
the eyelash on the woman’s cheek

and dirty seats. And yesterday’s papers’
ink looking like that July bomb blast

you know like a tattoo
running riot through Covent Garden

the dirty seats
the dirty seats
the dirty seats

in an expanse of claustrophobic noise.
The doors open. I leave

but I notice the exterior
perfect like Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields
Elysian Fields
Elysian Fields

Desire, not Cemetery.
Intricate neat and orderly

I thought of clean white linen
and pristine sheets

folded on my bed
and my A-Z book collection

A to Z
A to Z
A to Z

as I ascend the stairs to the overland
of London Town Armageddon

me, a laughing man
dreaming of empty cities

rather than the cesspits
of sugarcane floors

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