"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Watercats Poetry Bus

Sex or drugs or rock and roll, said Watercats - write a poem on one of them. Well, I only vaguely remember sex and drugs, so it'll have to be rock and roll, spending the summer of 1977 hitchhiking around England following the Clash.

We are also supposed to record ourselves reading it. I've had a go but technology and me aren't yet bosom buddies so it could take a while to figure it out. Until then, the poem only, I'm afraid...

Ode to Joe

Sweaty hands levering on the waist-high stage,
I leapt and thrashed like a skewered fish,
hooked on Simenon’s tireless bass line.
Mick Jones played the guitar hero,
posing and flouncing like a crew-cut Dave Hill,
a bit too uncool for the cool uncool.
Topper bludgeoned the cymbals to death
in a frenzy of manic destruction,
and you,
centre stage,
eyes half-closed,
mouth supplicating the mike,
left knee throbbing like a metronome,
your harsh, guttural, rock and roll voice,
echoing the frustrations of our crappy lives,
wincing as yet another beer can
bounced off your head.

I wore my strategically ripped t-shirt,
daubed with painted slogans,
that shrieked my existence to a world-weary world,
fastened with safety pins filched from the biscuit tin
that ma called a medical box,
in those few halcyon months
before the designer bondage suits
and the coiffured Mohawks
wrested control back to the middle man.
Another shower of spittle
and you lashed out angrily with your boot
and the tension rose another decibel.
Jones rushed forward and swung a fist
at a fat kid with long hair in the front row
two yards but many miles to my right.

And more beer bottles sailed over our heads
and shattered in shards on the stage.
“Lannan’s burning!” you screamed
Staccato drum roll.
“Lannan’s burning!” we screamed back,
corkscrewing higher,
soaked in Saturday night blood and sweat and gob,
till our bodies were drowned in the unrelenting rhythm.

Many years later, driving my Primera to work,
I had to pull over when the young radio presenter
glibly mentioned in passing that you had died.
Hard-faced and stony-hearted,
I never cried when my father died,
but I shed a tear for you, that cloudy morning
and with you, my youth.


  1. You've done a great job of taking us there - right into the middle of the fray. I love your perspective, seeing yourself and the whole situation for what it is. Then, of course, the ending is unexpected and moving.

  2. This is so melancholy.. what a harsh ending, the primera and the lost youth... a quiet hush after a frantic memory.. excellently done.. loving it! :-D

  3. I loved the touching ending, Peter. Wonderful piece.

  4. Peter, although I never saw The Clash perform, I feel now as if I had. That last tear-shedding tribute is fantastic.

    Just loved this bit:

    fastened with safety pins filched from the biscuit tin
    that ma called a medical box,
    in those few halcyon months
    before the designer bondage suits
    and the coiffured Mohawks
    wrested control back to the middle man.

    (I nearly got kicked in the head by Jean Jaques Burnel of the Stranglers one night. It's a near-miss badge of honour.)


  5. Yes. I can understand why you shed a few tears for the passing of youth. This was very, very good.

  6. Love the last stanza.Sums it all up really.The Primera reference is a neat touch.

    I loved the Clash. I was fascinated by Strummers way of talking that hip urgent earnest 'listen our music could change the world'enthusiastic vernacular vocabulary ,that strange but unique stlye of delivery.
    I also have noticed that when people die we cry more for ourselves, than for them.You hit the nail on the head here.Our twinness continues as I didn't cry for my Dad either.
    No more heroes anymore, or to misquote Tom Robinson, he was a middle class kiddie but he knew where he stood.

  7. Peter, if William Wordsworth lived in 1977, surely, this is how he'd write a few "lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey." In other words, I get a sense of the classic in this piece with its intensity and sensitivity interwoven. Lovely!

  8. You really plunged us into that gig (I'm sure I felt myself duck when the bottles got thrown). And your primera finale was beautifully pitched.

  9. Beautiful poem of contrasts Peter, youth, age and mortality - and so vividly captured. Really enjoyed, and really felt, this. Lovely writing.

    I can hear London Calling. Your soundtrack was in my head.

  10. Nicely done - love that 'medical box' safety pins - brings the voice (and poem) to life, for me.

  11. Thank you all very much for taking the time to comment. I have to admit I hardly ever cry, but that just hit me like a thunderbolt.
    Jean Jacques Burnel was a martial arts expert, wasn't he, Kat?