Friday, 12 October 2018

A SPECK IN THE INDUSTRIAL IMMENSITY

The photograph is of the turbine hall in Tate Modern. The ceiling is 35m [115 ft]. Every time I visit I am reminded of the turbine hall of the power station at Castner-Kellner Works in Runcorn. I mention this because it features in this poem.

SPACES

Sideways
through a letterbox in the earth,
then crawl on your stomach
and dive through a sump of dark water,
to emerge where? Don’t ask me.
I failed the first task.
When slithering into the fissure
the weight of the world was compressing
I was backing out apologising.
Extremes are not for me,
neither the confines of the cave
or the naked space of free air.

You see ten years or more before,
when I was first an apprentice,
I had to climb the cold metal ladder of the turbine hall
to inspect the integrity of the overhead cranes,
but when I emerged on to that tiny platform,
a speck in the industrial immensity,
I could do nothing but wait to be guided down.
These are not my worlds.

Perhaps the secret of any life
is to find the places where you can thrive,
there is always another life after this,
and an infinity of lessons to be learned
each successive incarnation.


I am not sure how the poem came to me. I had an idea for the first line and let it percolate for couple of days before I attempted to write it down. This is a method I seem to be using at the moment.
The view from the ceiling of the turbine hall stays with me, all that space...
Recently I happened to hear Steve Goodman for the first time in years. There were a couple of songs on the end of a CD-R. I had forgotten what a good songwriter he was. 
Here's Banana Republic. I think the lyric is superb, transposing words and tune in the chorus is a work of genius.

I saw him at the July Wakes Festival in 1976, he was a guest of John Prine. It was a standout performance.
His most famous song is City of New Orleans but here's Yellow Coat from his first album. It is such a subtle song.

Until next time.

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