13 Days Remaining

Thursday 2nd
posted by Jody Porter in Arts

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

Voice of the Northern Line
William Stephenson

In ‘71, the year tanner and shilling rolled down
the slot to oblivion, I founded Electric Albion.
We'd close our set with Tam Lin. Each night
I’d shed a dozen skins – wolf, snake, lion –
to shiver naked in my Janet's arms.

We plugged Child Ballads into the mains,
sailed the salt sea with Sir Patrick Spens
on overdriven riffs creaky as a galleon's deck.
A petrel circling the mast, my teenage tenor
cawed above the guitarist’s Marshall stack.

Our single appeared the winter the miners
dammed the current. No chart position.
In '77, our ship ran aground on punk rock.
We slept on the sea bed beside Sir Patrick.
Shoals of dole cheques nibbled our bones.

I kept our LP, even when my creaky deck sank
into a landfill. The CD reissue sold a hundred.
Then the month Lehman Brothers went down,
our Sir Patrick washed ashore on a waveform
lit up by Amazon, 89 new pence per download.

Off his back, I got this gig. As I chant my refrain
jagged audio files scroll across the studio screen
white as the jawbones of excavated dinosaurs:
This is a safety announcement. Stand clear
of the doors. Mind the gap. Mind the gap.

William Stephenson’s poems have appeared in Magma, The North and The Rialto. His first full collection Travellers and Avatars will be published by Live Canon in 2018. His pamphlets are Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (Templar, 2012) and Source Code (Ravenglass, 2013).

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