Don’t ask us to attend cos we’re not all there
Oh don’t pretend cos I don’t care
I don’t believe illusions cos too much is real
So stop your cheap comment
Cos we know what we feel

—The Sex Pistols, ‘Pretty Vacant’

Carter and Callaghan and studio sets
decked out in cheap formica, while the streets
reeked of garbage, as the long-odds bets
of older siblings came to nothing much,
their struggles syndicated as repeats.
Out of time and seeming out of touch,
the TV suits droned through the dinner hour.
Malaise. Hysteria. Declining power.

Yeah, blah blah blah. Who was really listening?
Shut your mouth. Shut up and hear me out.
Listen to my voice; I know its sound,
although I can’t quite say what it’s about.
Rain starts to fall. The putrid streets are glistening
as water takes the trash far underground.
It’s briefly pretty—is that what I mean?
Purified somehow, but not pristine.

No matter what you smoke or—hell—inject,
the moment never gets here, just comes close,
looks in the door, sheepish, circumspect,
a bit embarrassed. Then it dissipates,
over in an instant at the most.
You try to find it in the dirty plates
and smoke-yellowed posters in your two-room flat,
but you’ve got memory—a wisp, at that.

Put on your boots, break in the face you wear
until it’s comfortable. Look for your lighter.
Affectations turn into addiction.
The skinny dreamer turns into a fighter
with curses on his lips and spiky hair.
Call it postmodern; call it contradiction—
neither’s original, but both are true
images of what they did to you.