Mark finished it himself, choosing midnight
and a garbage littered swamp. He scrawled a note
and stuffed it in a pocket: ‘Like shooting a dog.
The Vibrations. Someone please try to bring me back.’
They pulled him from the mud and dressed him up
and put him underground again. A week before that
he’d grabbed me in the street, shaking,
speaking in a foreign tongue. Lost for seven years.
‘It’s all right, I’ll move along,’ he said. Cosmic radiation
fried his brain. He had tapped a private source
of horror clichés; nightmare rushed out,
and the gestures that he used in self-defence
were worn threadbare with too much fingering.
He wove a plot to save the masses; loners,
misbegotten, drifting on the edges of Night City.
All he needed was ‘charisma’. One day he left a note:
‘The Princess: She must be saved, even at the cost of death,
her own death, if need be. I’m sorry that I cut the Cross
against the grain, damaging the door. Yours. Mark.’
Vibrations called him from a network
on the other side of town. He had scuttled off
by the time the medics came to strap him down.
Once, years ago, when he was ‘elegant’, he bought us wine;
we ate well, and drank by candlelight. It seemed that sanity
was easily bought; one needed only to be young.
Methedrine, in moderation, kept him on the track.
‘I’m not interested,’ the doctor said, ‘in arty reminiscences.
Find the stupid prick and bring him back.’
This early poem by John Tranter (1943-) has always grabbed the editor of this series. He envies its restless and relentless nature, the way it tries seducing the sympathies of the reader only to have these undermined by a wonderful boomboomboom! final two lines.