London Strip


I take you skating on thick ice.
This grey gym-slip skirt

I am wearing is far too short
now my face looks like this

but I like the distance
from its hem to my boots.

Tuck your trousers in to yours.
Forget the talk-bubble

floating like a scone back there
in the sky, it’s far too far

back for us to see
what we say.


I can’t help myself skipping
from box to box

of this strip we’re in,
avoiding the lines

as if anything could go wrong now—
no cracks in my marriage

and yours is already broken.
You walk steadily beside me

with my suitcase balanced
on your head.

These are the lines
I say instead.


You take me walking
alongside the canal

where the black water
is an oil portrait of the sky

and you, and I. Me—
it is me that I see

and would usually say.
What we don’t do is stay

although you point out all
the spots along the way

where you, not I,
could stop another day.


We don’t stop in Hyde Park,
we are the only people

walking upright here,
looking down on the English

sleeping to the left and right
of us, in the dry grass.

You take me to see
the Albert Memorial

with its subjugated peoples
around the base.

I told you I would google it
when I got back.


Interior: your sister’s house.
You are the gilded Albert

but we prefer to talk
amongst ourselves

these days, slapping
our oval speech bubbles

into the air like wallpaper,
the thought bubbles

that rise up past you
from the book you’re reading

trapped underneath.
We can smooth them out.


We should wear boiler suits.
These metal canisters

on our backs are heavy,
we should stop carrying them

around, we should just light
them and take off—

There isn’t a cloud in the sky
except for the jet-trails

floating behind all those people
clutching their cold cutlery,

wearing their headsets,
sitting so upright up there.



Anna Jackson lectures in American literature and Post-colonial Literature at Victoria University. Her most recent collection of poetry, Catullus for Children, was published by Auckland University Press in November 2003.