Under-employment has its upsides, and one of them for me has been the headspace and time to embark on some focused solo writing rather than responses to commissions, collaborations, workshops and other projects, wonderful though these have been.
The project is Karaoke Poetry, a sequence of poems based on memories linked to specific songs. So far I have used a different form for each poem… something about playing off popular and high culture, perhaps? So far there are three: a villanelle for Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, a pantoum for Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’ and a sonnet for Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’. Here is the first in the series:
Like a rolling stone
How does it feel to be on your own?
The question floats above my right shoulder, midnight on Willesden High Road
and I’m hurrying home, hoping to shake off this complete unknown,
past the restaurant where I queue for take-away Masala Dosas,
past the deli where chatting women load up with baklava and okra,
How does it feel, how does it feel, to be on your own?
Footsteps slap the pavement behind me, voice is Irish but I know the line,
glance, nod, Dylan?, then suddenly he’s hunched in front of my gas fire,
holed socks planted on the patterned carpet, a mystery, a complete unknown,
smoking my cigarettes, drinking my wine, telling me how his family
couldn’t fit round the dinner table, laughter, talk and more talk… and me?
How does it feel to be on your own
night after night watching the mice play on the record deck,
smoking your cigarettes, drinking your wine, stuck
in this room you now call home, a street where you’re a complete unknown?
And me… I’m silenced by fear of the contagion of isolation,
of making the wrong moves, of not making it in this cold town,
of giving up and crawling home, of staying forever a complete unknown,
of never escaping how it feels, how it feels, to be on your own.