Midsummer’s day came and went and still the days grew longer.

The pace was unchanged, it went unnoticed

for days before scientists began crowing.

Meteorologists were seen shrugging, buzzing around

on TV screens. The dynamics of orbit,

rotational schemes had been snatched, shaken

and thrown backwards through a mirror’s pane

reflecting from one side the laws of physical governance

and from the other the forces of nature upended,

crushed into shapes which are implicit, represent

what we would like to see happen: our collective intent

cinematised on an atmosphere’s curtain.

Most of us prefer the days to the night-time.

 

Nights still happened but were merely less frequent.

They stabilised at five and a half hours, static,

interspersed with long, ever-lengthening days.

Times and dates grew out of phase:

a short night materialising in the early afternoon,

sunrise at dinnertime became quite accepted,

the unexpected becoming the norm

like being underwater and tasting a cherry,

climbing seven haystacks in a midnight rainstorm.

 

We can say to children: Christmas Day

will be twenty-eight hours long this year

and two days long next. Where will it end?

Sleep seems an anachronism, evening is here

and it’s something to be savoured –

the sunset falling on our gold-burned cheeks:

it won’t be back until this time next year.

 

In centuries to come a night will be a celebration,

rare as an eclipse, almost supernatural,

while generations pass in the time it takes

to switch the sun from overhead

from forty degrees; old men will speak

to grandsons of how, as a child, they saw the moon.

 

Eventually the night will ascend to mythology.

Humans, chasing impossible dreams,

will raise great towers into the stratosphere

and seed the sky with variants, chemicals

designed to cut the air and search for seams of darkness.

Experimenting, they mine the air for dusk, man’s half-forgotten dream.

 

 

 

My favourite poem out of all of them…and not just because it’s the longest! Everything just seemed to come together on this one, and it followed an idea through to its end in a way unlike pretty much any of the others. The way the premise is set out in the first line works well and really sets the whole thing up. Rather obviously, I had been reading quite a bit of JG Ballard when I wrote this (I mean, he even had a book called ‘The Day of Forever’! I don’t think I had actually read it yet when I wrote MFD; if I had, I wouldn’t have dared use such a blatantly similar idea). Now I feel there are some bits that look a bit clumsy; the exposition in the first part is quite laborious (though I remember being pleased at making it all work and fit the rhythm of the lines), and it only really gets going in the second part when I start projecting into the future as the days lengthen. But it still feels ‘complete’ in a way that I didn’t often manage and wasn’t able to repeat, even in later pieces where my writing became a little better honed.

MFD was commended in a competition, included in the resulting pamphlet, and so unfortunately I couldn’t submit it for publication elsewhere after that, despite it being much better than many pieces that I was sending out. I do remember reading it at a poetry reading in Winchester, hosted by a magazine I had something else included in – the first and last time I tried anything like that. I felt totally out of my depth, stumbled through it on autopilot, and it was utterly inexplicable why my friends who had come along to watch said afterwards that I didn’t look nervous. There were 3 poems I read out in all, I can’t remember what the other ones were, but I finished with this one, it’s length probably allowing me to well outstay my 6 minute/3 poem slot…

Reading out loud in preparation for this event brought home to me how important it is to do exactly that when writing. Until then I never used to speak the poems out loud, even to myself, and this, I think, accounts for many (not all) of the flaws in my poetry. The way they come out when spoken is very different to the way they sound in your mind’s ear, something that seems particular to poetry rather than prose. That would be my only advice on poetry writing, not that I’m qualified to give any: read ’em out loud, then you’ll see if they really work.

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