In alleys of Peckham austerity has stalls,
and wandering artists trailing hope, a small
revolution, cheap breakfasts cooked in caravans,
a mixture of Sunday and Caribbean flavours;
in derelict car parks the highest level a café
for top scenes over London, insouciance
ahead of the trend and billionaire lock-ins,
you can breathe the air of old markets;
the futures are not for sale; unmanned galleries
and eternal avant-garde stapled on walls;
artists have moved south of the river like terns,
flocks appoint what’s depleted into hideaways
for the cognoscenti, Peckham the hub-cultural
landscape we’re always seeking beneath the capital
trademarks, where poets and painters shift their wares,
Bohemia that comes and goes like the tidal
river that snakes through the banks of the City,
the collectives, the communes, the free spirit;
and in tall towers, spikes, and otherwise columns
of money, they’re unaware and too square.
Irritating what money can’t buy, in their highrise
systems, dry with air conditioning and precise
desk tops, the huge stairways in their atriums.
It’s money talking suits, striped shirts and gyms.
All those old gangland corners of South London,
Catford and Elton, infiltration has begun,
artists with time and too little cash are street
changers, word buskers, the shakers,
moving waves that defeat the consortium
underneath their eyes, their charts, self-esteem;
artists pay no attention to austerity
and bad vibes. They’re not bought or sold.
They don’t recognise that currency.
S.J. Litherland is working on her seventh poetry collection Composition in White. Commended twice in the National Poetry Competition, holder of two Northern Writers’ Awards, she has been published by North East presses Flambard, Iron and Bloodaxe. She’s a founding member of writing collective and press Vane Women.