London bears the brunt of the heatwave,
Buildings poured into a melting pot
Of glass and smog, cars gushing in streams of silver
Down the drain while I stand
Sweating in my armour
Cut off from the breeze.
Unlike my colleagues, I am programmable.
Putty with a human face.
Fresh out of Sixth Form, a baby, pock-marked and red,
Stuffed into a cot filled with paperwork and police cars.
Curled in my tiny fist is a baton.
The onlookers freeze, rabbits on the grass.
Stand in the shadow of Parliament,
Closing their fists over their phones before ushering
Their children, little girls, and boys with
Snow-white skin, to stay behind them, their eyes
Too transfixed to ask questions.
It occurs to me that I may not have
In the heat, my hands liquefy,
Reshaping to twin riot shields, which
I press against the crowd. The crowd, most
With dark skin, wearing jeans,
Dishcloths with human faces, their sweat being wrung from
Their skin, all twisted together, arms pinned to their sides.
A stony voice pushes me further against the crowd,
Completing the formation.
All our bodies intertwine, moulding as one.
A single shape - Kettling.
Standard practice. In accordance with the rules,
My body follows suit, my head down, arms pressed in a crucifix across
‘Thou shalt not’ scribbled beneath my uniform, a Holy tattoo.
Head rising, pulled taut on a string
My eyes catch his, wide and fleeting.
A deer in the forest, its leg caught in wire mesh
Fur bleeding, specks of red on his trousers.
He hovers in the outer rim of the Kettling formation, pressing
Up against a shield, a featureless face,
Staring at me.
An old friend. Same school, same neighbourhood,
When my Mum took me to Church,
He turned left, to the Synagogue.
Now another piece of tinned tuna,
Gasping for air.
My mouth opens in a silent overture,
And a chord of shame resounds within me. That
Thought, the truth: we are not altruistic.
I keep my silence, and with it, my job.
A golden afternoon dribbles to a crimson sunset.
The sky is rose quartz, as if the sun has cauterized
The clouds. Still here, all of us
Sweating, wreaking of ammonia and tears.
Slowly, the tunas are released, funnelled back
Into Parliament square.
One by one they go,
Their details now ours.
Of people disrupted by cameras flashing
And somehow, my old friend
Mohammed, who basks around the rim
Of this fish-tank, is kept within our arms
Behind the riot shields, until the
Last dregs of sunlight have drained from the sky.
He is the last to be patted down and
I can do no more than drown
As he meets my eyes with his hollow stare.
(c) Eve Naden