Forgive us our trespasses

I am wearing my best suit and clutching a vodka martini. Outside, ill-prepared tourists and students scurry across the bleak tundra of Bloomsbury Square. Inside this plush first-floor room, a middle-aged man with a crimson waistcoat and dubious political views gestures elegantly to an attentive crowd. Two stunning Russian girls in black dresses who are so similar they are probably twins giggle conspiratorially into their cocktails. Almost everyone in the room is beautiful. Even the ones who are not.

I am at the launch of Trespass Magazine at Pushkin House. Every launch should be like this. And I’m not just talking about the free vodka. I have two poems in the first issue – huddled at the back next to the contributors’ notes. I have the largest note. I hope Ian McMillan, Patience Agbabi, Paloma Faith etc. don’t mind. Trespass is edited by the lovely and bubbly Sara-Mae Tuson and is published by Christopher Arkell of The London Magazine (and of waistcoat). I recommend you seek it out.

One of the poems of mine they included had been a long time in gestation. ‘Margery’ tells the story of a woman who was wrongly accused of theft in 1382 by a clerk named Richard Coventre. I discovered Margery in The Calendar of Pleas and Memoranda of the City of London whilst I was researching my BA thesis ‘Literary Practice in Late Medieval London’. It’s one of those documents that at first glance appears dull as hell, but which contains lots of fascinating tid-bits. It may be bureaucratic in purpose, but it offers a window into the late medieval world view like little else. We know almost nothing about Margery – only that she lived in the Coppedhalle, near the Herber. The Coppedhalle was a compound of shops and living space on Dowgate Hill (next to Cannon Street Tube Station). My poem is a kind of attempted reimagining of her story in a loose, allusive style that incorporates myth, history and archaeology into the narrative. It still feels unfinished. But I think that’s okay. Here’s a snippet for your delectation.

From the messuage
through the orchard
past the court-yard
and other tenements
the Walbrook rifts east
from west. She wakes
before dawn to watch
the bull rising from its
bed, the red of his eye
denoting the boiling of
blood as in a spasm or
sudden contraction.

In other news, I am eating a pork pie and awaiting the imminent arrival of Man in Black.

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