On Revisiting John Betjeman’s Grave

A new song / poem. I thought calling a song “On Revisiting John Betjeman’s Grave” was a bit much. That’s the name of the poem, but you can refer to it as The Chains if that’s easier. Words below, song above. Vocalist is the stunning Lora Stimson.

On Revisiting John Betjeman’s Grave

Ten years ago we slouched up here to you,
a band of gobby boys against the world,
a cobweb string of paying gigs
to keep us from the dole.

We walked up from the beach across the easy
seventh hole, new beards and cocksure hair,
to try and forge ourselves a link,
then fasten it to yours.

The poem that I wrote claimed some success
in this. But mostly it was mimicry –
a ditty dashed like homework then
a rush down to the sea.

Today I come at you from Pityme
alone, down salty Cornish lanes, their hedges
heaving with the goods of May,
until I reach the course

and see the sunken church behind the green.
Your grave is just the same, the stone looks fresh.
It seems the decade has been kind
to you ,but what of me?

For one, I know you that much better now.
Back then you were the bard of railways,
of chintz and church and teashop trysts,
in towns I’d never know.

But now I see the terror, shame and sin,
the longing for the lost. Your knife-twist endings
startle like a newborn’s cry
then heap their weight on me.