Hunting in the Undergrowth: Oakley Flanagan

I came across a piece of social-history by mistake. I’d been researching the history of Battersea for Apples and Snakes’ show Rallying Cry when I discovered that Battersea Park used to be a notorious cruising ground for gay men & even as late as the 90s there were clashes with the queer community & the police who were sending plain-clothes detectives into Battersea Park as a form of entrapment. I found an article published by the Independent back in 1994 with the headline: ‘Gays Claim Harassment by Parks Police’ & it led me back to thinking about protest & how little discoveries about our social history go to remind queer folks, or folks from other background who’ve had their history kept from them that they have always been here which spurred me on to write a little something.

 

Hunting in the Undergrowth

Battersea Park, 1994

the men come with searchlights

hunting in the undergrowth

not our men our kind

certainly not kind these

dumpy plodding flat-foots

spot ‘em a mile off

treading ground like

Rottweilers

dressed plainly as possible civilian-like

but if you haven’t got a home

or a country of origin

then you’re not a civilian, are you? just a pariah,

you learn to tailor clothes yourself

the ones in shop windows never fit right

so, they always get the clothes wrong,

it’s laughable really

maybe try adding some colour to the grey

bit of colour might help make the come-on

make it believable might do you some good, officer

because good is what you’re not

lardy long-armed

phallic parody of power

touting truncheon

thinking you can beat out the gay

but the gay getting Battersea’d

makes a protest of the physical

copulating like snakes

once bitten    still fucking

turns to his brief husband

mutters under heavy breath

harder

                    faster

beat it into me

again & again

each bruise blossoming

a different fractal of rainbow

where the dew drops

so a mushroom will sprout

sometimes it’s loud speakers

playing all kinds of shit

to deter us or to announce

the arrival of the blue swarm

flies hovering

high

above

the head of a creature that’s not quite dead yet

classical shit

like Britten

I’m like, darling

                                  you did know Britten was a massive fairy?

bit embarrassing that you have got to know our history

if you’re going to try convince me

                                                                  stumbling ill-phrased

pigeon polari coaxing me into hand-cuffs

your horizontal tongue betrays you

fraud,

you’re a long way from home aren’t you?

wrong side of the River, copper

disused Power Station is looking out             across the water—

like how Lighthouse Keepers might pray     for sailors

to save [inside their fortification of flesh]

from the blank totality of rock-face,

—knows your number doesn’t it?

                tell Mr Major I said hey baby

let your dogs bark away like hyenas do howling witchery –

crack-down on this troubling tendency of offensive rustling in bushes–

make hetro the homo kingdom of mud, patrolling love

with an iron fist & a boot because there will come a day

where I will fashion dress, wedding suit & swaddling blanket of my velveteen rage

wear it – loud over skin parading through high-streets in deference, no pointed stares

you –

nothing

but the shadow at my back

 

Photo by Sabiheh Awanzai

 


First published September 2018

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