When the cutting edge was a sleight, a trick of time,
we blinked our way through Jason and the Argonauts,
thrilled by the stop-motion universe,
its brazen Talos grinding like a Dock Road crane,
and the Hydra’s teeth sown into studio soil
by Harryhausen, who got between the frames
like a man who comes in bone dry from a downpour
by stopping the world and snapping out a path
through glassy rods right up to his front door.
Something as simple as Edgerton’s milk splash
stilled to an ivory coronet would do it,
keep us quiet for hours as we learned to understand
the howling gale we stood in. Chilled to the core
we gasped as Ursula Andress stepped from the flame
and the unseen British-Pathé make-up department
took down her face, applying gravity with a trowel.
And I’d have to say something was taken from us.
On the dead sheep’s seconds-long journey to nothing
with maggots working like a ball of fire,
every now and then a long bone settled awkwardly
like a break in continuity. Like an afternoon
of finding out for ourselves what death smelt like.
Long afternoons. Lying on our backs watching clouds
with the slow Doppler of a plane being bowed across the sky.
Give us back the giant day. Give us back what’s ours.
Split pistols on a woodchip wall a decade,
faked alloys, brandished, facing one another
above a brick fireplace (another bullshitter –
ersatz and cold). These two bisected bastards
were only half there, but they stared me down.
The horse brasses and Spanish fans were harmless
but guns form in the womb. If my dad was out,
bored, I’d take up arms and clasp each half
together, then I’d pick a photograph
along the mantelpiece, and draw a bead
between the eyes of some ancestral second;
or (this was harder) turn the pistol on
myself. I’d hold its shape along the midline
by sucking the muzzle – it tasted of television –
and use my thumbs to blow my fucking brains out.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.