I WAS NOT AT THE UFO CLUB IN
By the time I made the club scene, it was time for punk
which I laughed out loud at, until I got the joke...
and post-punk was next, raised collars in rain
that drummed on roofs of abandoned plants
and went on for years. Brief Rio visitations
and Roxy/Velvet nostalgia, baggies, anoraks
and indie twang, then the second summer of love...
brief stirrings of revival in acid house and beanfield
before the lads marched in, smelling of morning glory
and gangstas posed glaring on the stairwells of the 'hood.
Everything became hard-boiled, the bliss
was beaten out of the culture, melody pulped by rhythm
and mind contracted as the space missions failed
and we were rat-trapped, Thatchermajorblaired
into street-smart compliance. So I was not there -
it might well have been elitist, precious and fey
and I might well have lurked at the dance-floor's edge
cringing from the volume, but why was I absent,
seven years old, in a Thirties suburb
of a gun-grey concrete port, not knowing that Eden
was rainbow-eyed and cellular, kaleidoscope-orgasmic
and two hundred miles away, along the narrow vein
of the Paddington line? The hair of that absence clothes me
at the brink of sleep some midnights, as I dancing and laugh
on a hillside in a desert, so very far from my name.
THE MAN WHO FELL INTO THE EARTH
A flame, a splash, then I was struggling
down a spoil-heap, dazed and scorched
into the dreamscapes of my childhood...
still, I'm alien but the skies have closed
above me as I slump at my usual table.
You can join me if you can find me.
Plug in a Vocoder. Seduce a sophomore.
Do what thou wilt. It's all sex and power in the end,
you would tell me, in so many languages
of earth's abyss. But it is you who have aged.
I have only really aged on the inside
and my face's whiteness is a Noh mask.
My lovers grew wrinkled, except for the one
who stayed with me the longest.
She made me forget my wife on Planet Grim,
my plaintive children gasping for breath.
All the time, it transpired, I was being filmed
but she did not care. Where is she now?
I love without faith for I will never return
to that theatre of lights. The skies have closed -
and, in time, despite my smooth visage,
so will the earth itself. It will contain me
like a mineral spaceship, as it follows its sun
past the place I came from, without a backward glance.
Electrique: 1971 and 1989
The clock's marshmallow
foams and pulses
on an afternoon
when schedules melt.
There has never ever been work
or the thump of fists on skulls.
Everything here is made of smoke
with a subtle hint of vanilla
teasing neurons, stiffening the rod
and making the moon-mound moist
turn to playgrounds.
The afternoon is us,
and this bed, and the Birmingham traffic
grumbling home in the rush-hour -
your wild hair in my eyes, this bonfire of flesh
I negotiate now, in memory's surrender
after twenty-two years, from sheer defiance
lying low but in no way destroyed.
What blissful dole-days they could be
and I'll defend them still, in mid-life's
tender regret. Listening to Gong,
their mixed-up flair and whimsy, means
to wind back the clock until it melts.
They have retuned their instruments. With a 1-2-3
and a crash of cymbals, the main theme begins
and the vocals are elusive, in a private discourse
of embellishment and smoke. You can hear the sweat
from this dream-club, admire the long bright gardens
on dresses and shirts, the delirious incense -
it is suddenly then, an age of unanchored hope,
a balloon blown up to the point of bursting
with slogans on each inch of its surface -
and the musicians play to prolong the dream
with intricate solos, intrusions of flute and brass,
carefully slapdash fretwork, butterflies in the snare-drum.
They play because we are condemned to flourish,
condemned to be brilliant like comets
for the brief years of our lives, in spite of all commands.
Again, we implore. The solos dance through our heads.
Again, the grooves are filled with the bending of notes,
time-signatures defiant of time, as we age with the music
but stay young with it, also, electric in our juvenescence
as the butterflies rise once more, beyond all risk of notation.
Norman Jope 2012