Sunday, 30 June 2013

Night Thoughts Of The Solo Sleeper

(A trip down memory lane here.  This was one of the earliest pieces I wrote which purely had 'performance' rather than page in mind, and stayed in the set for many years afterwards before I decided to retire it off.  

The structure of it was always deemed to be odd and attracted negative comments from some audience members, so I kept it in as an act of personal faith rather than anything else. The idea behind the delivery was to gradually speed it up to almost - but not quite - an incomprehensible pace for the found pieces of material in the middle as a manic peak, then tail off again around stanza 10.  Given that the found segments consisted of newspaper articles and headlines, the concept was always that you should just accept the flashes of information without worrying hugely about what they were, in the same manner that blips of half-heard or half-seen adverts would penetrate your subconscious.  

It was disliked by some for that very reason, with one person - who happened to be an English Teacher, as she was only too fond of reminding me twice - telling me "Poems should never be delivered in that way".  Them's the rules, apparently.  Even though they aren't.  Performance poets like Miles Champion and Mike Diss were deliberately delivering work in this way for most of the eighties and the nineties, so the idea that you can't do this onstage is a relatively recent one now that concerns about the accessibility of live performances have started to move to the top of people's agendas. Eventually those concerns will ebb away again, 'name' stage poets will get more experimental with their work in either this way or other ways, and as to whether I'll start performing this again, no, it's unlikely.  It feels too much like something a man in his mid-twenties would write.  But here it is again anyway).


1.
and then it all comes back to me,
when I walk through
damp busy streets
and the puddles ripple
with the interruption of passing heels,
and the image of two strangers
breaks totally,
a shimmer of street lights
zagged in a liquid storm.
A year feels inaccurate.
It feels like yesterday
you slammed the door.

2.
and he realised he
might become one of the
lost men who all date
teenage girls and dream of
having a beautiful woman
who timidly thinks she’s ugly.
She hides shaking in wardrobes
while they fantasise about
her shape, and keep onlookers
from their door.
All photographers flashes
will bleach out
the negative delusions,
she’ll realise the truth,
the last he’ll see of her
before she leaves is
her shadow on the wall,
caught in one final
global media blink.

3.
and she remembers
those inebriated nights
where it didn’t matter.
Nails in her feet
couldn’t be felt then.
She’d touch them on the bare
floorboards heading to her room
staggering on his arm,
but they wouldn’t hurt.
Nor would he.


4.
and did she have any
“date me” trousers left to wear?

5.
“and is anyone really shocked by
celebrities who put their fingers
down their throats in bar toilets
anymore?  I mean, I do it, all
my friends do it, it’s the
secret of having a great time,
pulling a man and
looking grrreat”.

6.
and the smell of money
produces a sensation of a
free fall through zeroes,
in large numbers
preceded by a positive digit
their hollow centre is
empty for endless possibilities.
Everybody has a price.

7.
a family home can be
yours for only #300,000

8.
are you gorgeous?
Do you live in London?
Are you busy, single and successful?
The gorgeous club is
looking for people,
#200, meal included, meet
other gorgeous people,
and the good news is if you’re seriously
thinking about replying
to this ad, psychological
statistics prove that
chances are you already qualify!

9.
he read that the only common
popular fantasy between men and
women was thinking about sex with
complete strangers they see on trains.
Carriages are full of people
dreaming of rocking in
another motion, but
fearful of talking to a soul,
hating unknown members of
their own sex who
block the way.

10.
and we said goodbye,
but we didn’t mean it.
It exists in mind
like a fog of episodes of a
Dudley Moore light romantic
comedy, shot in grainy
Eastmancolor rather than Technicolour.
We carried on rewinding and
playing back again
for another year, on and off.
We forgot the unexpected fight scenes.
We had poor memories
for the not-so-homely dialogue.
The picture got even worse.
The tape snapped.
The only copy I’ve got left
exists in my head.
I’ve wiped lots of it on purpose.
I never learn.
I wonder where you are now.

11.
and you said there was no
romantic poetry left.

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