Love from a Foreign City (1992)

Lavinia Greenlaw

Dearest, the cockroaches are having babies.
One fell from the ceiling into my gin
with no ill effects. Mother has been.
I showed her the bite marks on the cot
And she gave me the name of her rat-catcher.
He was so impressed by the hole in her u-bend,
he took it home for his personal museum.
I cannot sleep. They are digging up children
on Hackney Marshes. The papers say
when that girl tried to scream for help,
the man cut her tongue out. Not far from here.
There have been more firebombs,
but only at dawn and out in the suburbs.
And a mortar attack. We heard it from the flat,
A thud like someone dropping a table.
They say the pond life coming out of the taps
is completely harmless. A law has been passed
on dangerous dogs: muzzles, tattoos, castration.
When the Labrador over the road jumped up
to say hello to Billie, he wet himself.
The shops in North End Road are all closing.
You can’t get your shoes mended anywhere.
The one-way system keeps changing direction,
I get lost a hundred yards from home.
There are parts of the new A to Z marked simply
‘under development’. Even street names
have been demolished. There is typhoid in Finchley.
Mother has bought me a lavender tree.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

typhoid