Saturday, 27 September 2014

Wilson Moments

I don't mention music in poetry often - I seem to get most of my thoughts on it written elsewhere, most specifically on the other blog Left and to the Back, so it probably doesn't feel like so much of an itchy area in my brain. 

However, many moons ago I wrote a poem which used Brian Wilson's style of arranging and producing as the basis for much of its imagery. I was deeply obsessed with The Beach Boys for a long time, and even tried (and failed) to produce poetry which used tracks like "Good Vibrations" as the basis for its structure.

Anyway, this effort is the only 'complete' one and simply fleetingly mentions some of Brian's songwriting and production quirks. It never got published and I only performed it live a few times, but here it stands as evidence that once every so often, the two streams of music and poetry have crossed in my notebook. Who was I thinking of when I wrote this, and why am I offering post-holiday advice to a young woman? I really can't bloody remember, to be honest - and yes, that is the truth. It's just trying to capture a resigned, defeated mood. I wouldn't be surprised if it was inspired by all the forlorn looking pink-skinned English women on London trains during late August/ early September, coming back home to their frustrating jobs. I don't know how many of them had returned from California, though, but we can file that idea under "poetic licence". 

Wilson Moments

This year’s tan has
faded as rapidly as the
end of a Beach Boys
The holiday was like that –
it built and built ascending
towards greatness then
realised there was only
so much it could do
in a limited time
with the constraints of the
corporation you work for and
your bank manager.

Cheer up.
Your freckles will no
longer conspire to make
all foundation products
futile.  Your chest will
no longer grin
pink spam smiles
to everyone.
That man you were with,
he is no use to you now,
just one more instrument in your
pop pocket symphony, not
even a memorably
bad concept album
addition to your love life.

You can put your
office jacket back on, and
stop making eye contact
with strangers.
You can stop trying to
escape the fact
you were born in England,

not Cali-for-ni-a.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


I was coming to depend on you to arrive with the gentle morning snow of angry reminders, fast food offers, and requests for me to put this house (which is not even mine) up for sale. Another day, another letter, another nudge towards the core of the iceflake, showing the patterns we keep hidden to others in increasingly microscopic depth.

This missive is different from the rest. It ends with a single kiss, marked with an X.

“What does that mean?” you ask, and I say it means friendship, nothing more. Closeness. A kiss on the cheek. A female handshake to show an emotional deal done. The friendly, alphabetical neighbour of the sinister mark of Zorro.

A week later, you are waiting for me again. The envelope, this time, has my address written in garish coloured ink, like a pentip floral tribute to the uniqueness of my abode. The letter is appropriately perfumed, and written on soft, quilted bond paper, like freshly washed hotel sheets.

It ends with five Xs, quins of simulated kisses.

“Four more!” you comment archly, and fix me with a suspicious stare. I say it signals appreciation, and nothing more. Grateful that I’d taken the time to listen, to offer words of experience, mixing the colours of our emotional spectrum together to bring variety to our drab landscapes. You say nothing. Clearly there is nothing more to say.

Two days later, there is a new letter waiting. The writing on the envelope is larger, more assertive, and each word ends in a long lash of a scorpion tail. Postmarks bleed into the inkwork like Government invasions into secret foreign territory. The letter is too private even for my eyes. Should never have been opened. Cannot be described without breaking some unwritten secrecy act.

It ends with an entire line of virtual kisses.

You say nothing again, and just stand there, glaring at me. I tell you I know what this means. It represents a length of barbed wire, a signal that I have trekked too far across an alien landscape, found out too much, and can only retreat. You slowly nod your agreement.

I don’t reply to the letter for weeks, and when I do, it is nothing more than a short string of winding, point missing jovialities, guided by the hazard posts of exclamation marks. Winter has begun again.