Middle-aged men in the market café,
sit round a plastic table.
They masticate mouthfuls of toast
and argue about football loudly in Turkish.
They swear in English.
Hidden in the belly of the market,
the café is a striplight-lit lobby
with four fruit machines at one end
and, along another side, a fortune teller’s shop,
on whose door handle today hangs a sign saying
though behind the curtained windows,
someone is moving.
The men’s laughter is high-pitched,
but their competing voices are deep and low.
At the head of the table:
a thick-set bloke with heavy eyelids and drooping jowls,
his back set solidly to the unmanned counter behind him.
Short white hair frames his tanned, bald scalp;
grey-black eyebrows extend a little past his face
like goshawk feathers.
In one burly arm, where white hairs sweep across tanned skin,
he cradles a baby doll.
It stares up at him with long-eyelashed,
ever-open plastic eyes.
60p a cup of tea that leaves a tannin film
across the roof of your mouth,
A woman leaves the fortune tellers
and padlocks the door behind her.
A man has served his customer and returned to the table.
At the table next to these men,
a pinch-thin woman whose eyes stare
and whose hands tremble,
slurps her mug of tea and rocks a pram
in which another doll sleeps,
safe under her anxious gaze.
After a while, she takes the doll back
from the stocky Turkish man
and places it next to its twin.
She tucks them both up
and rocks the dolls gently.
Plastic sisters cuddling stuffed animal toys.
PARTY GAMES SLOTTO
Coins tumble out the fruit machines.
She gets up, tucks her chair under the table
and pushes her pram over to the neighbouring table
where the Turkish men sit.
Approaching nervously from behind him,
she taps the burly bald man’s shoulder.
“I’ll be back Friday. My friend’s coming then,” she begins, stuttering
out her words. He twists round his thick-set neck and fixes her with a heavy-lidded stare.
“So I’ll be here,” she says, “on Friday … my friend is coming.”
“See you Friday, then,” he says, helpfully.
“Yeah, see you Friday,” she says
and wanders out into the sunshine.
This poem was written as part of my commission to write poems about Ridley Road Market in Dalston, East London. The setting is the Market Cafe, inside Ridley Road shopping village. The poems are available in an hand-bound pamphlet along with 8 poster-quality prints of photo-sculptures arranged from objects found at the market by Lorenzo Vitturi from Fishbar Gallery