Oct 5 2011: On First Listening To ‘As The Crow Flies’ by The Advisory Circle (Nottingham to London, October 2011)

This is something in the way of a very rough draft, written while travelling by train from Nottingham to London on October 5th 2011. The recording mentioned in the title is available here (and well worth buying) and in a way, the method in this piece, insofar as there was one, was essentially to allow the sound to act as a kind of magnetising force for the imagery, perhaps heightening a certain feeling in the landscape as I found myself passing through it, snatching up fleeting observations with a vague idea that the sound might, on some level, shape the largely free-associative nature of the poem’s construction. Consider it as a bit of a notebook experiment that may or may not work, and an excuse to bring The Advisory Circle’s excellent recording to your attention, if you haven’t found it crossing your path already.

On First Listening To As The Crow Flies by The Advisory Circle On Headphones While Travelling Through England By Train

(for Jon Brooks)

(i)

Here is light on allotments, sheds and corn,
beds of cabbage rose and potato flowers,
a concrete bridge and cast iron arch
drawn like parabolas through a lowering sky.
Everything happens where nothing is
on the slip roads and cinder-tracks of lost estates
where storm clouds sail across a sky marked out
with telegraph wires and cold vapour trails.

(ii)

Here are hangars, apartments, scrap-yard cranes,
the darkness of a tunnel’s pale brick walls.
Here are apple trees sprung by railway lines,
blushed fruits fallen so far out of reach
nothing tastes their browning flesh.
In all this static, a radio stirs its dial,
invokes feedback, harmony, a decaying voice.
This music is where all sound alights.

(iii)

The hinterlands thin, disappearing fast
beneath a rubble of parking lots and superstores.
Multiplex cinemas play films to popcorn stands
in a darkness sweet with carpet-fumes
where fizzing, incandescent bulbs burn out.
Here are weeds and playgrounds, private roads,
rhododendrons, creosote and razor wire,
brick shells abandoned to nettles, birds.

(iv)

This sound is memory taking aural form,
a signal from a future we once cast out
that will transmit, continually, till either realized
or, whenever it happens, batteries fade
to a crawl of brittle tape on hardened reels,
blue sparks flashing inside a metal box.
Gasometers pulse, imperceptibly slow
as the heartbeats locked inside slabs of stone.

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