Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Land Lords

by Bryan Murphy

Property as virtue: an international lie
receding with history, tail ablaze with stingers,
preparing fire next time.
Its toady minions,
puffed with sense of entitlement,
better watch out: tenants can be pricks.

My first taste as a teenager:
the Lawrence lady from London
lets herself in to the South Coast cottage
while we still sleep,
decorates the death-wired lounge
just before demolition
to swell her Council compensation claims.

Fortune keeps me free
of Brighton’s gangster landlords,
its flat-torching insurance-scammers –
were there a Hell to burn them!

Life propels me to Oporto,
where the regime protects its pillars with weapons
and landlords lack no licence to use theirs.

Italy’s counterparts
could teach them a thing or two
about the pretence of power
from paper deeds.

In Rome, Cadolini: “You don’t know who I am!”
Right. “I’m sailing solo round the world!”
So proud of an ill-fitting factory-outlet suit,
of flats in his dead mother’s name.

Ditto Carraglio, Sicilian good manners,
antique dealer convinced of his right
to flout the law, generous to others
of his ilk: “Thieves won’t be back.
What have you got left worth stealing –
your moustache?”

In Turin, a dysfunctional family,
parents striving to be nice
yet ready to squeeze as though by right;
a whippersnapper son, who failed as an architect
before graduating,
choking with anger on his silver spoon
that bends against the bars over my bank account.

Even in Eastern Europe,
once the red-fascist State has gone walkabout,
a Colonel can accrue capital
through contacts and trickery,
install a foreign tenant in a former Army high-rise.
“Have some more rakia. I’m doubling the rent.
You need a Bulgarian wife. Why are you really here?”

States do no better on the landlord’s podium,
spy on you to boot, and let you know:
the cough of the scribe when you talk on the phone,
handprints on clothes in well-rummaged wardrobes.
“Shut up,” is the message, “we own your tongue.

Don’t even think about it.”

Hong Kong is different,
for time is money,
words are bonds,
and face looks also inwards:
all too precious
to waste extorting nickels from strangers.

I still rent freedom.
Half deaf, I hear the siren call
of brick and mortar:
“Buy me! Let me! Join the caste!”
I’d be no better than the rest.

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