The cuddly Cockney teddy bear poet Tim Wells exposes his love for American popular culture (just be lucky I'm not giving you the Rock Hudson one. Buy the book.)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Back in the day I didn’t have a washing machine. Instead I’d take my laundry up
Stamford Hill. There was a closer launderette, with a downhill walk, but the
woman who handed out the washing powder and did the service washes was
psychic. I’d heard her tell about illness, tragedies and heart’s secrets many a
time. I didn’t want her handling my smalls.
So I’d take my bundle up the hill and sit and read the paper as my shirts
and trousers sudded and span. The woman there was notable in that she’d wear
plastic Safeway bags on her feet, with slippers over them. This was before the
coming of Morrisons.
Once I was there waiting on the machine and perusing the paper. A fellow
came in to collect his wash. The old woman handed him a neatly folded pile of
fresh clothes. He thanked her. She said, ‘I found this in your wash …’ and
handed him a gleaming bullet.
He blushed, looked to the floor, palmed it and gave an embarrassed thanks.
The film that night was Tyrone Power in Jesse James.
And here is the Forward-shortlisted Turnbull production:
Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn
Hello! What’s all this here? A kitschy vase
some Shirley Temple manqué has knocked out
delineating tales of kids in cars
on crap estates, the Burberry clad louts
who flail their motors through the smoky night
from Manchester to Motherwell or Slough,
creating bedlam on the Queen’s highway.
Your gaudy evocation can, somehow,
conjure the scene without inducing fright,
as would a Daily Express exposé,
can bring to mind the throaty turbo roar
of hatchbacks tuned almost to breaking point,
the joyful throb of UK garage or
of house imported from the continent
and yet educe a sense of peace, of calm –
the screech of tyres and the nervous squeals
of girls, too young to quite appreciate
the peril they are in, are heard, but these wheels
will not lose traction, skid and flip, no harm
befall these children. They will stay out late
forever, pumped on youth and ecstasy,
on alloy, bass and arrogance and speed
the back lanes, the urban gyratory,
the wide motorways, never having need
to race back home, for work next day, to bed.
Each girl is buff, each geezer toned and strong,
charged with pulsing juice which, even yet,
fills every pair of Calvins and each thong,
never to be deflated, given head
in crude games of chlamydia roulette.
Now see who comes to line the sparse grass verge,
to toast them in Buckfast and Diamond White:
rat-boys and corn-rowed cheerleaders who urge
them on to pull more burn-outs or to write
their donut Os, as signature, upon
the bleached tarmac of dead suburban streets.
There dogs set up a row and curtains twitch
as pensioners and parents telephone
the cops to plead for quiet, sue for peace –
tranquillity, though, is for the rich.