I wrote these Estate Poems because I felt as though we don’t recognise how estate living is inevitably associated with storytelling. I feel like we take for granted how many stories are encapsulated within an estate; even the proximity and the quantity of families, cultures and generations literally insists on stories to be told. The hope is that these poems will inspire a sense of tolerance for an environment which we are told is associated with all things unproductive, uninteresting. The hope is that we can come to an agreement that estate living deserves the literary voice and time that I have provided it with.
- Thick Curtains in 14 Chrome House
Observing my neighbours in 14 Chrome House always sparks questions. I know nothing about them and
It bothers me.
I know nothing about a strong majority of the people on the estate but
I feel like their silence, their contentedness,
Willingness to dissolve into voluntary exclusion
Draws my eyes to linger when they sit on their porch,
Letting heavily patterned sheets sun dry.
I blame their silent good mornings
And their painted smiles, tilted heads,
For the reason why I peer and break my neck
In those precious moments that they open up
Their front door.
Momentarily exposing me to what I think is their
Paisley decorated world.
I’ve tried to work out exactly what the mum says
To the little ones to make their echoing
Become mumbles as they pace up the stairs.
I wanna know what they’re cooking
To make the balcony smell so alive.
I don’t want to embarrass or intrude or admire even
I just want the name. And
Then I wanna ask where specifically they buy these ingredients
And when they tell me I wanna hear how certain words hang
And how others are flung off the tongue. And
I want their voice to be this voice.
The one narrating this poem.
I don’t want to fill the page with
Diluted forms of what I think sounds like Hindi
But is actually Punjabi.
Just to represent my unrepresented neighbours.
And I want them to feel entitled
To tell me that I’m saying it incorrectly-
I don’t want to idealise their normal for the sake
Of the page-
I want their mumbled prayers through thin walls
To shout volumes.
I don’t think I even want translations.
I want the crying brown baby to be treated like a baby
Not a disturbance or a hindrance;
The centre of what the neighbours think is ideal conversation-
In their humble, estate opinion.
I want to know my neighbour’s narratives in 14 Chrome House like I know the narratives of Jack and his lad
Shaun in the chippy
Emma and Nicole and her mates’ boyfriend.
None of them my own but still
Narratives the estate lets me tell.
I want my neighbours in 14 Chrome House
And those alike,
Scattered across various culturally unwelcoming estates
To claim their domain,
2. The boy from 108 Chrome House on the door step of 69 Hunt Court
There is no such thing as a quick, short, neighbourly visit
To 69 Hunt Court.
Going to 69 Hunt Court means
Entertaining his younger brother on the porch.
Realistic enough 100m sprint races.
Ball games against the shoot wall.
The wall with the sign
“Ealing Homes. NO BALL GAMES PERMITTED”.
A trip to visit Angela in 69 Hunt Court
Was like, almost medicinal or
What’s the word?
For Angela –
According to his mother.
He didn’t know what therapeutic meant.
Maybe it was the echoing sound of the bouncing ball
Through the square.
Maybe that was the sound of therapeuticity,
Or trying to figure out a pattern
With the flashing lights in the block opposite –
A picture of therapeuticity.
It could be the sensation he got in recognising
Which scent belonged to which flat as he walked
On the way to 69 Hunt Court.
Sitting decked-up high on the
Stacked up garden chairs outside of
69 Hunt court, he thought,
Might also be therapeuticity.
He never asked his mother.
Not even about the correction.
He just continued the trips to Angela’s until
He got big enough to refuse to attend.
And later, big enough to understand that
Therapeuticity is having no one who cares aside from that one neighbour.
Having no teeth to bare but laughing from the inner depths of genuine anyway.
Living a life fuelled by medicine, but being sustained by human comfort alone.
Feeling like depression is hours away as long as the conversation keeps going.
Defeating mental illness, one neighbourly check-up at a time.
3. Peggy and Frank in 84 Chrome House
My Frank died March 2005.
But this is still his house,
Frank still lives ere,
Mine and Frank’s house this.
I can’t wash him out of this house.
He is in every fragment.
In every tea stained patch of carpet.
He is in every aspect.
In every over watered plant;
He is in every segment.
In every chipped plate.
In every picture and the writing on the back.
In every rusty nail in the bent gate.
In every swirl of the s and the a when I sign Mrs Frank Harrison.
In every moist cake.
In every bang and clamber of the baking trays.
He is in every cupboard I can’t reach, every night I struggle to believe.
Every memory I can’t escape.
Every good day.
In every worn out corner of the stairs;
He is the whispers and the weight of their stares-
Frank still lives ere.
Thing is I’m in quite a predicament.
I grieve because he’s gone
And when I’m done,
I grieve because he’s not.
Whenever I flick through the photo album, he is there.
A page behind me,
Holding the sleeve at the edge,
Neck bent, sat beside me.
Whenever I look to the funeral picture he is there.
Proud of my decision: wrinkled forehead out of sight,
Nose looking a little less crooked from the right.
But, whenever I hum verse 1 of our song and wait for him,
Pray for him to croak out verse 2 he is not.
Whenever our grand babies ring he is not.
Whenever winter comes and hugs were always better than heating he is not.
Whenever I use his peppermint- smelling after shave he is there.
But wherever I use it is useless, I can’t dissolve away my own despairs. That trick Only works when its dabbed on his chest.
Whenever I sit back outside our house,
His seat beaten by nothing but raindrops
Mine beaten by a heartbeat made weaker by daily thoughts,
Whenever I bravely sit back outside where we once sat throned,
He is there.
4. Story time in 99 Chrome House
There’s a new family in 99 Chrome House.
Full of expectancy,
Unnecessary eagerness to learn of the people, the corner shops, the postcode.
There’s a new story in 99 Chrome House.
Unnecessary eagerness to overwrite
And override the old
The new family walk down the passage (the
Old family didn’t call it a corridor so it is a passage).
The kitchen is the first room they come across:
“It’s a little small but still… serene. Look how effortlessly the sun pours in-
We are gonna have some lazy breakfast’s in here”
There’s nothing effortless about this kitchen.
The peace you feel has been left behind,
By a desire for a piece,
A small piece of calm,
Away from the noise of estate
Of ‘ah, unlucky love’
Of duties and martyrdom
Of died out dreams.
Nothing lazy about the process.
She picked up her worries and stammered
Into the kitchen and loaded them off.
Lyrical weights off loaded from her tongue and back
Everything was broken.
Mind the cooker handle- don’t cut yourself.
Girls leave the dishes tonight, the sink is leaking.
No don’t open that cupboard, the hinges. No, it’s fine, I’ll fix it.
Everything was built. Everything was made.
Construction might have reconstructed
But just know she paved the way.
The next room is the living room.
The kids are excited
“It’s so big! We can play here and stay up late”
So are the adults
“-It’s even big enough for a dinner table too”
And it is big enough for a dinner table.
But you have to squeeze it in –
Tension takes up a lot of room in here. It’s a
People did all their living in here.
And it is true you can definitely play in here.
Making sure to tiptoe around the mattress on the floor
Lest you find another, subtler way of addressing the challenges that a 1 bedroom flat poses.
Chase each other,
Running around on your toes,
Giggles through your nose-
Because you can’t wake dad as he sleeps, you know.
The next room is the bathroom.
Only two people clamber in because
“it’s very small. But how much room do we need really? It does the job”
Wonder if they can sense that this
Very small bathroom was forever bursting with smells.
Smells that would be more appropriate for a room big enough
To maintain them.
Always smelling of newly painted walls.
Always smelling of oil-burners,
Incense seeping in through the open window connected to the balcony.
Always seeming to be trying to mask the smells.
Normal bathroom smells-
Mask the smells of tears of regret. Of loneliness.
Mask the smells of sweat produced amongst the tears and prayers
When satisfied that no one is home.
Mask the smells of blood being washed out before the upset.
Mask the smells of brushing your teeth after meek and apologetic “good mornings”.
Mask the smells of the Impulse drenched blazers to
Mask the trembles from the argument drenched mornings.
Like bleach cleansing the bathroom of germs,
The smells of newly painted walls, oil-burners and incense
Infiltrate the very small bathroom.
The final room is the bedroom, downstairs.
“It’s a weird layout – room on it’s own downstairs.
I mean, its so secluded like a little world of it’s own”
It was a close enough sentiment.
It was like a home of it’s own if not a whole world.
It represented dis
Junction from the rest of the house.
15 steps down the stairs does take you away from the sound of adulthood –
Don’t listen to the arguments for your own
Laughter lived downstairs. Amongst other necessary things.
Unfair and so secret fights when one is 10 and the other is 5
Benign cussing matches when one is 15 and the other is 10
Almost intellectual debates when one is 17 and the other 12-
That bedroom housed growth.
But to correct, there’s nothing weird about it.
Inhabited or not, lights on or lights off
The warm glow that stems from that room
Is rooted in spiritual permanence.
You’d know if you’d seen but just feel the honesty in our confession
When we suggest that the
Prayerful nights from us keep that room aglow
Desperate cries to The Most High from us keep that room aglow
Tongues spoken for the first time, Angels distributing hugs and drying hurting eyes,
Set-Apart Spirit almost physically dwelling inside, all
From us, for you.
The lessons that were learnt in that home furnished more than our lives, they furnished your walls.
That’s a gift from us to you
New family in 99 Chrome House.
– Amara Amaryah