The Burning EP (Derelict Roller Disco Records, 2018)

by Blue-John Vs Quidgybopper

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1.
The Burning Taliesin: that is what they called me long ago, for I have died many times— taken many shapes beneath flick-books of moons—since then. Again and again, breaking, womb-snug, into the bright white of the world, kindly pummelled, my tiny lungs snatching, my tabula rasa whispered at by ink-stained, bramble-thorned ghosts, I have endured. I have clung to Her; to fractal Knowledge; to the Unresolved, a questing reborn. I, who met with Arthur’s stare—who, in the Battle of the Trees, fought alongside their enchanter, Gwydion—did not find on Cader Idris, alone and mumbling through snow-tipped whiskers, that which my soul desired. An intricacy in the palm of my hand, caught by the dawn’s silvery sliver, the lapwing’s sought-after secret provided no solace. None at all. There was, instead, the troubadoric yearning, the sorrow, The Burning. I felt it at Agincourt, knee-deep in the blood-blackened mud, my face spattered and appalled. I felt it on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, blazing unseen, almost unbearably vermillion. I felt it against the hilt of my blade when a cruel witch-pricker was brought to heel (there is no beast more monstrous than a man). I felt it crouched quietly in a trench, Lucifer the architect. I felt it huddled in a café, in the tilt of a poem, in another day’s first blush, in fingers of imagination pushed, exploring the edge of the Universe. I felt it weep from ley lines, which led me back to a town hemmed in by sea and moors, where the Barghest begat Bram’s Dracula. Taliesin: that is what they called me long ago, for I have died many times. Now, only a trace element remains, diminished beyond recognition, but I have found Her. At last, at last, at last.
2.
No Chains Can Hold Us Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold her. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold him. Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold us. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold us. At school, my introduction to her words disturbed me. Gashed with a blade from the flames, written with the blood of womanhood, they shapeshifted, her body a paperweight, brutal asceticism allowing brilliance to penetrate. The doorway sealed, walls demolished, roof blown, shackles thrown. Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold her. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold him. Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold us. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold us. Serialised on the radio, a collection of letters from long ago ignites; cooled embers are stirred back to life. There dawns the realisation that I know—have always known—her. She became an arrow. She interconnected all things. Her elemental wings; enfoldment; sparks sent into the night; a sharp ascent. Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold her. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold him. Sorry to break this to you: no chains can hold us. When Ariel takes flight, no reins can hold us.
3.
A Firestorm in Downing Street A newsreader’s charred backdrop— the still-glowing poverty trap. A straw PM flaps in a gale; let the crows make of her what they will. If she goes to ground, set the hounds loose; dig her out like a fox. Feeling the pinch, we sing, with all our hearts, Flaming June’s twenty-first century blues. A firestorm in Downing Street— blazing souls of children in the form of swallows. There will be a march; a day of reckoning; the burning gaze of angels. The scarecrow propped itself up, but the blue touchpaper was lit. Hyenas take their summer selfies, the backdrop a grim, black skeleton. Let the privileged few cue for tins; make them rummage in supermarket bins. They tried to keep a lid on the toll, failing to sweep Flaming June away. Run if you must, driven from your burrows; there is nowhere to hide. Those who died want to know why. Divinely incandescent swallows will cram your mouths with soot, and pin the sleeves of your designer-wear, bloated by straw, to limbs from a tree stripped bare (its magical leaves, once torn, were nothing more than dust). The perpetrators are to be stationed on hillsides of golden loneliness, in smoulderings of wheat. A firestorm in Downing Street— blazing souls of children in the form of swallows. There will be a march; a day of reckoning; the burning gaze of angels.
4.
The Man on the Bridge The man on the bridge, the man on the brink. Where I live is beside the river, which I especially like when the water is a calm, deep green, reflecting the trees at dusk. Spotting oystercatchers brings me luck. I watch night-time double-deckers above me, illuminated from the inside, on the bridge. I no longer bother to go to bed; not since the wheel fell off my car three weeks after it was serviced. Instead, from the settee, I have seen gulls flying behind me, heading in the direction of Mars at first light. But I was feeling strangely restless when I looked out early one Sunday morning. Perhaps the tawny owl brought me out of that no-man’s-land between being awake and asleep. It was still dark, blustery, autumnal. A piece of the picture made no sense—seemed wrong. I scrunched my eyes, adjusting to the murk. Then I instinctively telephoned 999. “There appears to be a man on the bridge,” I told the police operator. My conversation with her became a long one, as we waited for her colleagues to arrive. “A woman is with him—his partner by the sound of it,” I said, describing any developments as best I could. “They are tussling. Now she is screaming.” “Actually, I think I can hear that,” the operator said. “Yes, you probably can,” I replied. He was this side of the barrier— the suicide side—silhouetted against streetlamp orange, swaying wildly in the wind and lashing rain, his arms crucifixion-like. I have seen a few things in my life. Never a man plummet to his doom. Personally, I would prefer a Virginia Woolf-style wading into the river. “Will there be a dead thump,” I wondered inwardly, hearing it, “or more of a high-velocity watermelon exploding on concrete effect?” I winced. “Think of the kids!” his partner cried out to no avail; the man’s mind was made up. She pleaded with the gloom: “Please, someone call the police!” At that point, the police van came crawling warily across the bridge. The woman fell silent. So too did the wind, suddenly dropping. It was as if everything was being held in the palm of a giant hand. The officers ascertained the man’s name, asking for a chance, carefully coaxing. Eventually, they hauled him out of no-man’s-land. A ringing telephone—a thank-you from the police—jolted me back to the edge of my drifting. Though “very poorly” (that, I had already deduced), the man was safe—cared for. Afterwards, I remember the relieved laughter of the officers on the bridge, which merged with the whistling of birds, and a gentle rain.

about

1. The Burning [with Peter Lagan on lute]

The epic ‘I Come From Ireland’ by Raphael Doyle—a true poet—made me want to try setting a long poem of my own to music.


2. No Chains Can Hold Us

My starting point was hearing the hopeful letters of a young Sylvia Plath. This is for her.


3. A Firestorm in Downing Street

Borne on a quiet fury felt last June, dead children take the form of swallows made from flames, and angels administer retributive justice. No radio plugger would touch this track with a bargepole, thinking its subject matter too ‘highly charged’.


4. The Man on the Bridge

A simple tale told by a ghost of sorts.


—Blue-John Benjamin, Whitby, England, 2018

credits

released June 1, 2018

Produced by Quidgybopper
Words, vocals and firestorm guitar by Blue-John

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Blue-John Benjamin Whitby, UK

"We put the boot in - flew the freak-flag;
We stood resolute like Morrissey’s quiff."

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