It was outside Battersea Power Station,
That great wen, that the train
It was November, and raining.
Your Dad didn’t bother to wipe clear
A patch of window with his cuff.
The turbine hall loomed – a man-eating bivalve
Sifting the meagre light: immense, archaic –
Dissolving into mucilage, to be borne adrift
By the sea.
Subsiding, an amorphous bulk, into its
Origins, or else weeping away
Into the fissures of the earth
Like a soiled sugar lump.
Your mother said nothing. Consider the marriage:
Two gentle souls, alone in their carriage.
A brief encounter, extruded years
Beyond its viable length, chilled solid
(Much the way they make
Sticks of Brighton rock).
To sum it up: today’s escapade.
A mildewed reconnaissance
To mark the slipping apart of minds.
A souvenir, like a muddied watercolour,
Framed between trips
To a teashop and a Chippy.
You won’t remember your parents
As I do. Let me reminisce.
Your father as a young man:
Fastidious, charming, none too sure
Of what might lie in store,
Gilding his eager path towards his bride
With decorous alacrity.
Like one who pirouettes across eggshells
Like one who skates the slender vertiginous steel
Of a spider’s web – like such a man –
Teased, enchanted, drawn voluptuously in
By the aroma of undreamt musk.
“You’re my little comet,” his Nan had once said.
And, like a caged comet, he succumbed,
Earthbound by the banality of manly affairs.
Driven to ground by the surfeit of guilt
That leaches stagnant pools where
Guilt alone can fester and breed on.
Such is the incestuous Self.
Such is the parabola of doomed promise.
Such are the chains of loveless self-insight.
Don’t think I mean your old man disrespect.
The freedom of Icarus is the freedom to fall.
How each of us adores life’s brittle austerity
Once failure becomes our safe option.
Friend: just one thing. Don’t blame it
On your wife.
How come you managed to suck
All the fun out of her?
You’d always guessed you were
An accident waiting to happen.
That’s what you said.
You were eight when they buried you –
Stifled, by degrees, in your bed.
“A disordered room marks
A disordered mind” announced your own father,
Amongst so much else
Calculated to demean.
You never forgot it, did you?
I’m sorry you took it to heart, Old Sport.
Your levelled terrain is a wasteland.
As for your betrothed? Summer
Sang in her, burned in her.
“For me, you are spun from sunlight,” you wrote
In trembling ballpoint.
(You used to post each other
Little cards like that.)
She drained the loyalty out of you
To the last drop.
Who knows if, really, she played the
Field, or how often?
What mattered was: the men folk said she was
Easy. You revelled in her merriment.
You danced away your borrowed days
In the bright circle of her gaiety.
Knowing that, one day, you could
Pull her down from the clouds.
Now you are both used up.
Let us bear two tiny corpses forth
On the raft of provincial imagination.
A Sunday twilight. Look at them now.
A duet of greaseless whirring:
Two cogs that have worn the
Teeth off each other.
Bald wheels that spin,
In unspoken alignment,
With a faint mechanistic buzz –
Anticipating a greater silence.
May 2001 Stephen Jackson
My then partner (Gemma) and I would take the train from Victoria Station for adventures closer to the south coast. It was always outside Battersea Power Station that our carriage came to a halt. Sometimes on our travels we’d see couples munching disconsolately, in a world of their own, with nothing left to say to one another. I wondered what would happen if you propelled me thirty-five years down the line…