Roaming around the rain-lashed Tesco alone,
I hear that song from Dusty in Memphis float
down the aisle, ‘Son of a Preacher Man’,
with its sweet re-mouldable Hollywood ease,
that opening eight second riff on which the world
of soulful cool had always seemed to hinge.
And it catches me like it did when I heard it first
at nine or maybe ten, when you placed one earphone
in my ear, the other in yours, the wire dangling
like string between two cans for hearing voices,
and we silently leapt to the ecstatic loudness of it,
the low-resolution clamour of tambourines
dissolving the outside dark, the fear of dance.
Now under a bus stop, waiting to go back home,
I mainly think of money and meals and nothing
as raindrops drum the glass beside my head.
At breakfast, we heard the barely hoped-for words,
‘don’t bother going in, it might reach thirty…’
From then the day stretched out like low tide,
so low you thought you could stroll to France.
The threat of strip-lit classrooms and nylon blazers
evaporated in the morning’s heat-haze,
Along with every equation, quote and date.
We scavenged for trunks, then hit the beach barefoot
and limped across the stinging sun-baked pebbles,
trying our best to hide the fact it hurt.
We floated in kayaks, useless as swans,
squandering the afternoon, then lazed in the shade,
skin salty, minds empty. Then it got cold,
and it was time to go. We’d wait for tomorrow
And bear another corridored day
Scratching our futures out with leaky pens.
A Few Commandments
You must waste your life more emphatically.
Buy the biggest red chair and paddle to Gibraltar.
Perhaps there you will learn to sing with a pain so pure
that fishermen fling themselves weeping into your arms.
You will return wiser, bearing ageless wisdom, like:
Salting an aubergine does nothing to remove the bitterness.
You eat with your eyes. Crush some plum tomatoes.
Translate birdsong into crochet, then into dance.
Tomorrow is just an enormous field of wheat.
Lie down in it; don’t think about The Present.
The Present is bounding unstoppably towards you,
Like a German Shepherd on the scent of blood.
William Snelling is a writer and musician from Hastings.