A Poem: ‘Brighton’

An occasional poem written for a World Poetry Day event at Lamar University, April 14, 2015.file

Brighton
Sweet little Saxon fishing town
Recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086,
Known as Brighthelmstone until 1660
When it was shortened to Brighton,
Presumably for the sake of brevity.
Nestled between the English Channel
And the rolling hills of the South Downs,
Where the Devil built a dyke to flood the Weald
But was thwarted by an old woman’s candle and a cock’s crow,
And from where, on a clear day, one can see France,
Except, being England it is never clear, of course.
The Lanes, cobbled, narrow, roofs overhanging,
Functional then, but now, simply quaint for the tourists.
When, in the early 1800s, Doctor Richard Russell
Proposed that all come to take “the cure,”
Bathing and drinking seawater, a fad so alluring,
That the little town became a fashionable hub,
It boomed with aristocracy and royalty including,
Eventually, the Prince Regent, and his mistress,
For whom Nash designed an opulent Pavillion,
Indian on the outside, Chinese on the inside,
A building hated by Victoria, “Nash’s Folly” it was called.
To be fair to the black widow, it is pretty weird,
But if you know Brighton, it reflects the personality
Of the place, which for years was a dichotomy,
Monied gentry lounging about in Regency luxury,
All so very, very genteel, mingling with
Theater types, like Lord Larry, dahlings, but also,
So much seedier, the Cheeky Chappie’s music hall,
With the Blue Book and the White
(Although they always wanted the Blue,
With “the girl who says she never does,
Now ’ere’s a funny thing“),
And also, with its proximity to London,
It was a good place for a dirty weekend with the secretary,
Anonymous among the sweaty throng of bloody tourists,
The hoi polloi who pack the beaches, skin translucently pale,
Except for the bright red sunburn and black socks.
The sixties brought Mods and Rockers
From Soho down to Brighton” to clash on the sea front.
Now several hundred thousand spokes
Reside on a cultural hub
Where arts and rainbows walk hand in hand in hand
With gay abandon — and with Pride.
The jewel on the south coast,
Sophisticated and seedy, toffs and tawdry,
Conservative and cosmopolitan,
Fish and chips, curry and vegan tofu,
Historical and historic.
There are lots of things besides
I would like to be beside,
Beside the seaside, beside the sea.”
That’s my Brighton.