Street Walker: a prosery

What is Prosery? It is where “prose, poetry and flash fiction collide.”

I wrote STREET WALKER in response to Linda Lee Lyberg’s Prompt for D’verse Poets. The Prosery Prompt is to write 144 words that includes the last line from E. E. Cummings’s IV-Impression. “In the street of the sky night walks scattering poems.”

Street Walker is set in the cobbled street that leads to St. John’s Gate in Clerkenwell…

Rain on a cobbled street | St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell | Photo: Lesley Scoble

STREET WALKER

Her high heels clicked on the wet cobbles. A thin, bemoaning rain dampened any faint hope that remained. It trickled down her neck. She pulled her overcoat’s collar closer. It smelt dank. The shoes sounded loud and hollow in the silent sorrow of the damp night. 

In the street of the sky-night-walks scattering poems. Business was slow. 
A curtain moved in a window. Someone was watching. 
She proceeded on to the restaurant. Through the condensation of steamy glass. A candle flickered. She saw them. They sat at a table for two in intimate conversation. 

She strode away to the sharp click-clack cadence of her heels. At St John’s Gate, stopped. 
His familiar car sat parked by the archway. 
She slunk into a dark shadow. Why didn’t she listen to advice? “Never mix business with pleasure.” 
‘Too late.’ She took off her stilettos. And waited. 

L. S. November 2022

A little bit of history

The old arch featured in my prosery tale of murderous intent is St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, built in 1504 by Prior Thomas Docwra. It was the south gate to the Clerkenwell Priory, monastic home of the Knights Hospitaller (not to be confused with the Knights Templar who lived close-by in the Charterhouse Priory. They were the ones dragged out on the infamous Friday 13th to be burned—but that’s another story).
They built St. John’s Priory in 1140 and it was burnt down in 1831 by Watt Tyler and the revolting peasants (no disrespect) in the Peasants Revolt.

In the 18th century, the St. John’s Priory Gate was a redundant entrance to a now non-existent priory. It became a coffee house and the childhood home of the artist William Hogarth who lived in the arch as a child between the years 1701-1709. His father, Richard Hogarth, opened a coffee house there and served coffee with Latin lessons. How brilliant is that? Go to Starbucks and learn a language!

William Hogarth 1697-1764 Self-portrait with his pug dog named Trump

Dr Samuel Johnson got his first writing job in St John’s Gate writing for The Gentleman’s Magazine. It was a haunt of artists and writers, including Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.
St John’s Gate has also been a pub (what a shame it isn’t now!) The pub was called The Old Jerusalem Tavern (perhaps harking back to when the knights would leave the priory to set off on the Holy crusades to Jerusalem?).

I love the atmosphere of the historic arch. When I first moved to live in the area, I was sure it must be the gate that Richard the third, rode through on his horse to enter London. I enthralled (most likely bored) many a friend in the Jerusalem Tavern (an old pub just a short stagger down St John’s Path) telling stories about this stupendous historical fact. Education can be a sad thing. I am disappointed to learn this cannot be true, and I was fantasising and telling tales. They built St. John’s Gate in 1504 and poor Richard died, looking for a horse on Bosworth Field in 1485. An event which ended the War of the Roses, the Plantagenet royal line, and thirty years of civil war between the Houses of York and Lancaster—disproving my claim and meant that I lied to all who listened to my ramblings.

Interior of the Jerusalem Tavern, Clerkenwell | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Across the road from the St John’s Gate is a secret garden. I sometimes sit here in the quiet of the old Priory Cloister medicinal garden, imagining cloistered monks and medieval knights gathering herbs to brew potent healing concoctions.

St. John’s Priory Cloister Garden, Clerkenwell | Photo: Lesley Scoble

The Order of St. John carries on caring for and treating the sick today.

My special thanks to Linda Lee Lyberg and d’Verse Poets for this prosery prompt.

9 comments

  1. A lovely post, Lesley. A great little story and some fantastic history for us. I know that area, having worked nearby for a time, but never knew all of this. Maybe I should have stayed on after the day’s work…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s