I came across a piece of social-history last week by mistake. I’d been researching the history of Battersea for Apples and Snakes’ upcoming birthday celebration performance & BAC 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

 

Oakley Flanagan will be part of Rallying Cry at Battersea Arts Centre, 4-6 October, an immersive spoken word show responding to the times we live in. Tickets and info. #RallyingCry

Photo: Sabiheh Awanzai