Walking down Commercial
On a sunlit lunchtime
I see this guy talking to this girl –

She’s got tattoos, rings, black hair,
Blonde streaks – he is leaning forward
She is leaning back

And as I pass by, he says:” I have always thought
That punk and hip-hop have more in common
Than they have not.”

The peak of his baseball cap is flipped back
like he‘s caught in a wind tunnel.
Noise cancelling head phones circle his neck.

Is that an egg stain on his cardigan?
Did he play bass once in a band called Head Lice?
Or is he just another fan?

Who knows?
He looks disheveled, disinterred,
Pale as a Pogue*.

And I want to stop
And tell him
That I don’t know about hip hop

But I have always thought that punk
Is the sound
Of someone puking pints

Outside a pub at midnight
Without implying
That is necessarily a bad thing.

*Pale as a Pogue

I shared a plane once with The Pogues on a flight from Vancouver from Chicago . I got bumped up to business class (I was flying a lot at the time). The Pogues were also in business class, on the way to Vancouver for a gig. The year was 1991, I know this because Joe Strummer was with them and according to Wikipedia he joined the band for a short period in 1991 , Shane MacGowan had left due to drinking problems.

They were the palest, skinniest, sickest group of people I had ever seen. They looked like creatures who spent most of their time at the bottom of the ocean at a depth where the sun could not penetrate, or maybe they just got up late in the afternoon.

The only thing I remember from the trip is that Joe Strummer was ordering drinks as soon as the seat belt sign went off. Vodka and tonic was his drink of choice, I think. When the stewardess brought his first drink, she said:
“ I hope that’s not too strong for you, sir”
Joe replied: “Too strong? Too Strong?” and began to laugh hysterically and continued to laugh for quite some time. As the flight progressed he would turn every now and again to the other Pogues and shout “Too Strong?” and start laughing all over again. I guess he was taking the Shane MacGowan role seriously.

Graffiti Photo was taken in Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia.

This poem was previously posted in Open Link Night over at dverse

23 thoughts on “PUNK

  1. Grace

    I enjoyed this story and your backgrounder. Interesting to see such people up close and think about their behavior. I saw black goth-inspired clothing on a young girl & was shocked to see such pale makeup like a ghost.


  2. peterfrankiswrites

    The Pogues/Joe Strummer story is choice. Where I live now, when the wind blows from over the coal loader and the steelworks – I’ll sing ‘Dirty Old Town’ to my border collie. (She’s too young to get the reference but it makes me smile).


  3. Steve Simpson

    A wonderfully graphic piece, Jim, a real pleasure to read, the bright light of midday shone on those who perhaps should not have been disenterred (lovely description, same as the sound of punk). Everyone wants to belong to some group or other, I tried for years and failed. Maybe some of the ridiculously famous need the (possibly mythical) emperor whisperers: *memento mori* remember you are mortal.


  4. donmatthewspoetry

    Just came across this. I like everything about it…
    So-good lines for me:

    The peak of his baseball cap is flipped back
    like he‘s caught in a wind tunnel.

    And as msjadeli ( Lisa I think) said, you are a great storyteller…..



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