The Ballad of Kerry & Gav

Helen Mort wrote a good blog this morning, in which she quotes Larkin’s Wants and a couplet from Michael Donaghy’s Upon a Claude Glass, which is fantastic, I think. Especially as it is a commission. Admittedly having all the wonders of the V&A to inspire you makes it a bit easier than having two Saturday Live stories to chose from but the inclusion of the personal at the end of the piece gives it a real clout. Anyway, do read it, and Helen’s blog too.

Talking of commissions, I’m one poem down in my Hornchurch adventures now. I have ideas for the next four. I don’t want to write another character piece though. One of the great pleasures of writing poetry for me is using my own voice. I find it really hard to rhyme when doing a character piece. My poetry voice naturally uses a wide lexicon and has a built-in ironic lilt that lets me get away with audacious rhymes and a level of artifice that I couldn’t get away with in the poem I wrote yesterday. Consequently I found it quite hard work to get right. I’m pleased with the result and I think it will work well delivered by the actor, but today I shall write with greater aplomb, something more bombastic.

So here is yesterday’s poem. I have decided to post them as you may enjoy them and I doubt somehow the hundred or so regular readers I have will spoil the ‘guerrilla’ performances. It is to be read by a woman in her late 20s and the chorus are two or three men in their 20s. I’d like the chorus to speak together roughly, swapping lines and talking over each other. It will be set in a pub.

The Ballad of Kerry & Gav

KERRY:
He lived on Abbs Cross lane, my Gav
a semi with his mum
across the road from school which meant
at half past three we’d come

back to his and fool about.
His mum, she used to work
so we had the house to ourselves
his hands under my school skirt …

Close my eyes, I feel it now
those first few times, the fear.
You never feel that way again …
We were in our final year

Gav was never one for school
me neither I suppose
we planned to leave and both get jobs
the garage up the road

for him, cos Gav, he loved his cars
not that he could drive
well not officially at least
his friends, they all had rides.

He’d always had much older mates
I thought it made him cool
always more mature than all
the other boys at school.

We’d drink in here on Saturdays
his mates had loads of cash
they worked you see, or so they claimed
I only saw them smashed.

And then we go out cruising through
the Easter park estates
the bonnet vents, the alloy wheels
the cavs with custom plates

and proper old skool UK garage
these crazy massive subs
the base would churn your insides up
much louder than the clubs.

CHORUS:
From Fatling & Firkin to Cold Harbour Lane
Gav’s gone and brought his missus again
the under car neons, the uprated brakes
the tire paint burnt on the Rainham estates
a hundred or so on the bridge and the sides
a seig heil of bottles at roundabout slides
the sports exhaust howl and the sub-woofer bleed
who needs love at that speed
who needs love at that speed

KERRY:
June, in nineteen ninety-nine
on study leave, a doss
just smoking weed in bed all day
we didn’t give a toss

about exams and school and stuff,
we didn’t need all that
I’d got a job in Sainsbury’s
we were waiting for a flat

the days were hot and sunlight spilled
like honey through the air
we talked in glances, jokes and smiles
he used to stroke my hair

and Gav weren’t fussed ’bout cruising now
because we had each other
just me and him against the world
under duvet covers.

CHORUS:
A boy can’t play house, at least not at sixteen
a name on your sunstrip won’t block out the scene.
When the tick in the brain turns to revs when you kiss
it’s a clear indictator its speed that you miss
till the itch in your foot is a kick in the balls
and your leg starts to twitch when the country lane calls
these high octane dreams grow from customised seeds
who needs love at that speed
who needs love at that speed

KERRY:

It was slow and sticky Friday night
I wasn’t feeling well
we’d spent the whole day stacking fights
until the whole lot fell.

I think he knew, I’m sure I did
I tried to just forget
we’d never been that careful …
he was just upset

he said some things he didn’t mean
I tell myself that now
ironic cos until that day
we’d never had a row …

and now that fight will never end
I pick at it like code
the night my whole world crumbled to
some flowers by a road.

CHORUS:
But who needs love at that speed, who need love at that speed
when brakes lock and gears crash and you can’t stop or breathe
who needs love at that speed, who needs love at that speed.

1 Comment

  • Patience Agbabi January 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Great stuff, Luke. My favourite phrase is ‘who needs love at that speed.’ You see the tragedy coming but it still hits hard at the end. Am writing ballad style piece at moment in festival setting in voice of a dog on a piece of string. Blog’s on hold at moment cos trying to get drafts of every Canterbury Tale finished by end of month!!! Not polished but at least early stages. Four more to go. Wish me luck! Pxx

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