In the cesspool with idlers and loungers he drains.
An eleven and sixpence in hand for his pains.
And there’s no one to hear if he cries or complains
in a room on the Strand.
In the night, to escape all his burdens and banes,
he sets forth on the land.
Through the city he wanders without purpose or aim,
by the shops, ‘cross the parks, along streets he can’t name.
Every night is a novel, each day much the same,
And he watches them all.
There, the reveler, the deviler, and crown prince of shame
amidst peddler and stall.
As he surveys the river, he grieves he can’t paint.
Then he’s lost ‘round the docks with its brine and its taint.
There he spies a young sailor, feels something quite faint
in his moribund frame.
But the seaman’s a ghost: there he is, there he ain’t.
as the fog lays its claim.
The next night it is Limehouse. He breathes its perfumes
of the spices in rices and vices in tombs,
navigating by lanterns which hang like the plumes
in an opium den.
There’s a lad, he’s quite something, the pose he assumes
makes a corpse think of sin.
He returns to his rooms more alive than fatigued
and throws off the mantle of dreamer bereaved.
No mistake, there’s an ache, an old friend, he’s intrigued,
so he spits on his palm.
And he thinks of the lad and the sailor un-leagued
and applies the wet balm.
As he strokes, he remembers what once made him tick,
resurrected by lust, a young dog, an old trick.
He imagines it all, from the tight to the slick,
free from blot, free from strife.
And he thinks as he watches the lurch of his prick,
‘Not a bad sign of life.’