by Christopher Buxton

In the spirit of Walt Whitman I sing the joy of Bulgarian pavements

In their cross concrete eruptions, slabs tilting, rocking, soaking ankles with hidden waters, potholed, jagged, stepped and rooted.

I step I shuffle I trudge I trip I stagger I lurch I shift my gaze to my feet as they chart the three dimensional jigsaw.

I am blocked thwarted diverted by the hulks of deserted cars, black monsters that nose the walls and fences and stretch their arses to the very gutter.

They sleep in my path like bulky panthers fed on elephant, sleek in obese glossiness.

I sing the community of the pavement as I pass elbows of drinkers spending whole days in bitter carousal.

Hey! Gay! Come here so I can chop your prick off! A growl from a table as I weave my way. I turn to see a boy behind me flinch.

Dressed-down punk! A dog collar round his neck and faded eye shadow are the signs of his well known gayness. His step falters and he looks away. He is part of this pavement life.

Drunken vituperation peters out to a low murmur to be drowned by the next pull at the rakiya, the next outpouring of passion to be applauded by companions wise in their inebriation.

Turks Gays Gypsies Chicks.

I pass bench after bench along the unending wall of block that rises to the sky. I am haunted by the eyes of single old women. Sit down next to me, son. I have something to say about life, about health, about the dead.

Lucky twos and threes support their chins on walking sticks and discuss their neighbours. Didn't you know she's the most fallen woman in Burgas? How is she not a peasant? Have you seen her white teeth?

I sing the grim determination of pavement dwellers, the grannies and grandads that squat all day selling flowers and pure honey, straggling herbs and accurate weight.

The seventy-year-old woman on the dusty rutted pavement on the edge of the complex, among trees and grass and roots and broken stones, she pushes a pram full to the handles with old vegetables. The wobbly wheels catch in holes, are stuck at steps. I have ten mouths to feed, she says.

I sing the memories of dark night time wandering past low houses set in vine covered gardens where friends sat lit by single lights and drank home made wine. Whole nights of song and roasting peppers.

Where are those houses now? Where are the gardens? A brontosaurus blocks my path in the dark. I thought at first it was an earth mover. A cement lorry smashes the corner curb. Scaffolding and corrugated iron surround the sites where once fig trees burst with plopping fruit. I step back to crane my neck. Another modern block to join the wall of modern blocks. I tip my hat to the past.

Tipping my hat to the past as I once danced with my special girl on the crooked pavements of Burgas! All the way home singing "Hit the Road, Jack" in drunken harmony till all friends peeled away to their houses leaving lovers free to kiss and canoodle in the dark.

I sing the scandal of pavements even in the dark, the hushed report relayed by neighbours and relatives to her parents.

He danced with your daughter in the street. Yes Martha, Kalinka, Vitka, Bonka, Donka, Danka, Dinka, they all saw it or heard about it the next day.

He'll use her, he'll abuse her. How can you let them dance on the pavement? The shamefulness, the outrage! And when he dumps her on the pavement, what will you do then? Best send her away to Stara Zagora. There are no foreigners on Stara Zagora pavements.

I sing the detritus, the spat sunflower husks, the plump figs and plums dropped from trees, the plump turds dropped by dogs.

The wrecks of grey rubbish bins loom like shipwrecks. They are the haunt of scrabbling cats and ravenous paupers in ragged jump suits.

I sing myself that have learnt to walk like Long John Silver, striding the pitfalls with bags of treasure bashing at my peg legs.

I am restless, cannot sit at home, my toes tap unsatisfied, yearning for massy challenge of the wild outdoors. Like Shackleton on the ice, I must go forth or die.


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