I’m out with Bear on Victoria Street
who pads on all fours beside my wheelchair.
Slaloms his way through the soil rain that falls
from freshly watered hanging-baskets perched
like floral eagles on London’s lampposts.
Cranes observe from above as they deliver skips
to third floors without lifts and walls.
Wet nose to the ground, tension stretches
his sinews. His fur bristles. Always moments
from mayhem. The street is a treadmill in reverse,
every third door a Pret, repetition everywhere.
Step step Pret. Step step Pret. Step step Pret.
Tourists and commuters momentarily forget their handhelds.
It’s clear we don’t belong here.
I am wary of Bear. I want to get to the station
without incident. A wheelie suitcase here. Double pram there.
Sideways glances. Unseen fury from Bear.
Bubbles of rage fight for release.
Bear explodes. Chaos.
Now on two legs he claws at a man on a bike
for hire. Interloper on the pavement, briefcase
and Metro in the basket. He has spun too close
to our tension in his race
for AOB at 9am. Bear scratches
at the fact we are different. That in this city
of a million faces we stand out below eye level.
The commuter cyclist is collateral damage. An accident.
Like we once were.
Lava eyes ignore sense. He’s too strong for me.
I grasp at the space where moments ago he was.
Bear stop, what are you doing? Let it go. I plead.
Bear replies: Say he deserved it.
Bear is lost in the woods. Redwoods loom,
their branches retreat, unable to contain contempt.
You’re pathetic, stand up for yourself. Say I was right.
Bear is a dot. Lost to me.
No good ever comes when he is like this. I know what he thinks.
If people want to stare, give them a show.
Take me out from the trees, put me in a Big Top.
Silence and shame will deliver us to the station.
But Bear is right.
Can’t you control your bear? Pedals the victim.
Stephen Lightbown was born and raised in Blackburn, Lancashire but is now Bristol based after an eight year detour via London. Whilst Stephen writes on a variety of subjects some of his most personal work gives a unique first person insight into what it’s like to have been a wheelchair user for over two decades. Stephen can be found on Instagram and Twitter under the username @spokeandpencil and his first poetry collection will be published next year.