Grafton Arms, Kentish Town,

a Friday lunchtime in late '87.

The two Daves and me.

I'm relaying a story

from last night’s gig

(Tom Waits): a bullock

pierces testicle of civil

war soldier, a girl

in the line of charge

cops his load from

afar and is now with

child: a kind of

intercourse, but

it's not for everyone

(boom boom). But

why I had pictured

such scene – a ball,

a bull, a hoopla conception

 – is a mystery indeed

when a bullet not a beast

had planted the seed.

 

So hear me when I say that

to have imagined such

a yarn to be reliably

spun makes me wonder

what it was that day

I had brought to the table,

where we shook off the dust

and supped on our pints,

sucking in smoke that clung

like a blanket, warm and

anaesthetic its desolate balm;

how we nested in the hollow

of an hour we had punched

in the face of a day that

gurned like any other;

doling out time

in small denominations

like a joyless cashier

(small change that got

rained on by 12:58).

 

But something else

hung in the air

that numb November

Nat Western day:

the shadow of that night

before the night before,

when tube lines mapped

the inner circle of hell

and time left behind

a life that had shunted its way

into sidings we’d shared.

A quarter century has

passed us by, a lifetime

and more for a girl who

met her fate at

not so sweet sixteen

in the white rush of flame,

a journey’s end before

it had barely begun.

X marks the spot

where the kings and the queens

amongst whom she roams

come up for air from

their underground realm:

31 stories that meld with my own.

 

The informality of memory

tempers the past

of a future made present,

a time beyond the reach

of those we remember.

Neither bank clerk nor victim,

hers is a story that cannot

be etched in memorial stone,

a life not reducible to

workplace or ending.

That which she is and is not

or might have been

is but an escalator ride

between night and day,

history and eternity,

bullock and bullet,

12 o’clock and 1.

 

 

 

April - May 2012

 

 

LUNCH HOUR

© Les Roberts 2012