Archive for the ‘poem’ Tag

Join Hands 11.11.1918-11.11.2018

In 1979 I went to see Siouxsie & The Banshees playing at Hammersmith Odeon – it remains one of the best gigs of my life. Just before the tour half the band had gone AWOL so new musicians had to be drafted in including Budgie on drums (formerly the token man in The Slits, one of my favourite drummers – Stewart Copeland considers him one of the most interesting drummers for his “very economical and offbeat” playing, that offbeat being what I most like about him) and John McGeoch on guitar (formerly of Magazine). That tour marked the release of the LP ‘Join Hands’. The hands joining are those of four bronze WW1 Tommies on the war memorial between Horseguards Parade and St James’s Park (the Guards Memorial) – I passed it regularly when I was working at Channel 4 and it always brought me back to that music and excitement. The LP opens with the tolling bells of a 2-minute track called Poppy Day.

In the same way that Punk (especially The Clash) introduced me to reggae, through this track it introduced me to the First World War poetry of John McCrae, a typical example of the less known poets who emerged in the Great War, the one-hit wonders and offbeats. McCrae was a high-ranking Canadian army doctor serving on the Western front. In Poppy Day the resonant bells give way to the distinctive driving guitar wailing of The Banshees and then just a few short lines, delivered in a distorted Siouxsie voice:

In Flanders fields
The poppies grow
Between the crosses
Row on row
That mark our place
We are the dead…

I don’t think McCrae is credited for the lyrics which are very close to the opening of his In Flanders Fields, in fact every word is derived from the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Siouxsie & The Banshees filtered out the patriotic and the warmongering/cheerleading to open their record with the zombie or heroic or haunting dead, we don’t know which. What we do know, two years after the Silver Jubilee and the Pistols’ God Save the Queen (the Fascist regime), with rubbish piling up in the streets of strike-bound London, is that these dead were neither glorious nor patriotic in the establishment way.

The band were inspired not only by the chaos and crapitude of the late 70s Home Front but also by conflict witnessed on their suburban Kent TVs, particularly in Iran. (Plus ça change).

siouxsie and the banshees join hands vinyl record album LP cover design

Siouxsie_and_the_banshees_Join_Hands_war guards memorial

The LP cover was extracted from this shot – L to R Steve Severin (bass), John McKay (guitar), Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Kenny Morris (drums) – before McKay and Morris went AWOL

Banshee stalwart, bassist Steven Severin in the wake of watching the two minutes of silence in memory of the war dead on TV on Sunday 12th November 1978 explained about Poppy Day: “We wanted to write a song that would fittingly fill that gap”. On the inner sleeve of the record (which sits still in the room just below me, alongside its vinyl sisters The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse) beside the lyrics of the song is specified (with echoes of John Cage): “2 minutes of silence”.

So here we are on Sunday 11th November 2018, 40 years after Severin watched that broadcast, 100 years after the world watched that bloodbath, that futile wiping out of a generation, and we are still all struggling to join hands. The irony of The Banshees brooding in the studio while recording this masterpiece of an LP and splitting up in its aftermath is as nothing to the irony that we mark this centenary at a time when the world’s international institutions are being deliberately dismantled, Europe re-fracturing and the zombie voices of patriotism, nationalism and fascism wailing more discordantly than John McKay’s guitar. We are the Dead. We are turning in our graves row on row between the poppies.

siouxsie and the banshees paris 1980

Reinforcements arrive: L to R John McGeoch (guitar), Budgie (drums), Siouxsie & Steve – Paris (1980) where 70 world leaders are arriving this morning to mark the centenary of the Armistice including Macron (accordion), Merkel (tuba), Trump (mouth organ) and Putin (triangle)

 

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Sluice my Daisy

Sluice my daisy poem illustration

Sluice my daisy
Water the bush
Playing a game for three
Three in one
One for all
Moist as moist can be

Jack it in
Voices of shades
Woah, hold your horses!
Allen keys
Sees the day
Through weather vanes courses

Wind wild
Lizard child
Stop my halo bleeding
Hallowed ground
Round & round
What the heck is feeding

Daisy words
Thresh my heart
Angels on patrol
Type my heart
Adore my light
Lick away control

Ball the sub
Slice the eye
Cast your faith to the wind
Wind the window
Whiplash aerial
Dig the bind and binned

Not too shoddy
Knot Two
Three in one baby
Douse the holy
Heal the louses
Take it as a maybe

Sluice my cock
The road is hit
Homesick with the blues
Happy this way
Happy daze
Beat my writing ruse

Unexpected turbulence
Blow the fuse
Spark the fuck out of it
Kiss my hole
Sluice my soul
Serve the affidavit

Strip off skinny
Strike a pose
Call my worm to sup
The end is nigh
Higher than the world
Raise my daisy up
A beautiful fool
The gap between fingers
Turn it this way up

jack kerouac allen ginsberg neal cassady beat poets writers

Shards from the Boneyard

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In a word

a Man

God’s finger touched him

Oh for the touch of a vanished hand

Into thine hand I commit my spirit

Underneath are the everlasting arms

Only to us a short time lent

Until the end of our days

 

Our lights have gone out everywhere

No morning dawns no night returns

 

 

A place is vacant

 

Our family chain is

broken

 

A bitter grief, a shock severe

The shock was great, the blow severe

The cup was bitter, the shock severe

Tragically taken from us

 

Many a lonely heartache

When we are sad and lonely

This sad life of toil and care

Troubled in life

After great suffering patiently borne

Peace after pain

 

In the midst of life we are in death

Lay down thy head

I am not dead

but sleepeth here

I am not there

when sleeps in dust

A faithful friend lies sleeping here

who fell asleep

called to rest

entered into rest

for they rest from their labours

At rest

Good night, God bless

 

Beyond the sea of death

to shape the ships he loved

accidently drowned

lost his life while saving a dog from drowning

He gave his life for one and all

Every restless tossing passed

Fell like warm rain on the arid patches of my imagination

 

So much of hopeful promise centred there

One of earth’s loveliest buds

A sweet flower plucked from earth

A loving sweetheart my only chum

I have loved thee

I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need

He loved in youth

to walk with me throughout my life

 

In death ‪they were not divided

A short while apart,

together once more and never to part

together again forever

we’re together in dreams, in dreams

love always

love never ends

 

She was an angel

A warm smile

In her tongue was the law of kindness

A devoted mother

Widow of the above

Breathe on her

May the angels take you

 

He did his best

By his good deeds you shall know him

Kind to all

Upright and just to the end of his days

A fond father and a kind husband

His merry spirit is with me yet

Your spirit lies within us

Always content

 

Although dead

Lost to sight

Interred nearby

Passed away but not lost

Gone but not forgotten

Forever in our thoughts

Silent thoughts and tears unseen

Sacred to the memory

Always remembered

Lovingly remembered

Remembrance is the sweetest flower

Live on the memories of days that have been

 

I never wanted memories George

I only wanted you

 

The bosom of our lord

Where I have longed to be

But that we think of thee

I will fear no evil for thou art with me

 

I have fought a good fight

Life’s race well run

He was summoned

The lord gave and the lord hath taken away

Exchanged mortality for life

Wipe away all tears from their eyes

 

Hope

In my father’s house are many mansions

We would walk right up to heaven and bring you home again

I am the resurrection and the life

I am a thousand winds that blow

Until the day dawns

Joy cometh in the morning

Nothing could be more beautiful

Inwardly we are being renewed day by day

Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper

Peace be with you

Perfect peace

Ubique

Requiescant in pace

Love never ends

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This poem was constructed from fragments from gravestones in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley, London N2.

S.O.S.

A while back, on my sabbatical from Channel 4, I did a phone interview with Hettie Jones in New York, wife of LeRoi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, and friend of Allen Ginsberg (both sons of Newark). Baraka passed away a few months later. He played a key role in one of my favourite films, Bulworth. This poem of his I read this week in connection with a documentary I’m working on really resonated…

BBC-1930s

S.O.S.

 

Calling all black people
Calling all black people, man woman child
Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in
Black People, come in, wherever you are, urgent, calling you, calling all black people
calling all black people, come in, black people, come on in. 

Amiri Baraka

 

“Poems are bullshit unless they are teeth”

Black is a country

(1962 Amiri Baraka)

s.o.s.-7

A bastardized haiku for men of imperial Japan

Face Slap ape

Right hand to left cheek

Left hand to right cheek

Binta hints of

Nothing

auschwitz_birkenau

House of Horroughs

Milky-Way

isolated-right-fist-with-love-tattoo-on-fingers

The spaces of love truly felt

The spaces of felt love truly

The spaces felt of love truly

Felt the spaces of love truly

Truly felt the spaces of love

Truly felt the love spaces of

Love truly felt the of spaces

Of love truly felt the spaces

Of love spaces truly felt the

Of spaces love truly felt the

Spaces of love truly the felt

Spaces of love the truly felt

Spaces of the love truly felt

The spaces of love truly felt

Red Hot Felt

As I have loved you

When the evening came, she sat down with them all
Holding court in the sparse bedroom
One by one she comforted them
Giving audience from her bed
As her time was at hand

As she had given life in the Rotunda
As she had given comfort to the sick and dying
Are you right there, Ruby, are you right?
As she had given friendship, given compassion, given care
Given, given, given til she ate away at herself
Like the gnawing cancer
But the hollow always filled
A child’s hole at the seaside
With love

No echoing hollow
No resounding gong
She spoke human, she acted angel
She has love

Love one another
As I have loved you

Some people are crazy
Some are just plain good
The crazy Celt was in search of her people
Lost in the wilderness
Wandering through the book
Joining the dots from Bob to Ruby
And the only Jew in the village
Merry Christmas
Happy Chanukah
Whatever you want
The trail brought her to
The tribe’s pied-a-terre in New York
Spreading loose change behind her
Tokens of love

There weren’t no machine gun big enough
To protect what she loved
But who could protect her
From the black eyed dog at the door?
It shadowed her to the tip of the island
Growling around the cloisters
It hung her head in Bernard Shaw’s village
How to keep yourself clean and bright, GBS
In the rising tide of that NYC disease
The dulling senses of old age, waxy flesh
Boulders of cancer blocking the ducts
Blood, sweat, shit and tears blocking the hospital drains
City grime blackening the hospital panes
I’m the window through which I must see the world
And I’m black as a dog
Sure look pretty now, bitch
My name is Sorrow
And my soul is exceeding sorrowful

Then she bursts through the door
The life and soul
Her skin-tight black catsuit
Draped in the stars and stripes
Wrapped in glory
She plays the numbers game
Adding a second passport
Green
Dark blue
(And secret light blue from the older country)
Soft emerald conjoined with Safad sapphire
North, South, East 14th
East to her former life in Baghdad
Wandering through hollow lands
And the hills of Derry, the black pool of Dublin
Poor towns
Kilburn, a fire in her head
Irish rover and lover

Finally back home in Carlingford
The last Christmas dinner
Bald as Sinead
Nothing compares to her
Rotunda – the circle closing
Bloated as Brando
Full of grace, dressed in white
No horror
No fear
Take, eat, this is my body
And a drop of my favoured red, I’m no saint
The flesh is weakening
But the spirit is high and willing
Merry Christmas
Whatever you want
Yes, the sweet tasting good life

The hour is at hand
Sleep on now, and take your rest
Don’t cry for me
I’ll never leave you
She loved Madonna
Drama queen
Holding court in the bottom bunk
Sister of mercy
She comforted us
At the hour of her death

She loved her own
Until the end

for Una

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