Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Townshend James

Two perspectives on that perennial male problem; your body and appeal has aged and withered, but your desire has not, your response to the sight of young beauty is still what it was when you were young and beautiful yourself. One is 'Dreaming from the Waist' (on The Who By Numbers, 1975):
I'm dreaming from the waist on down
I'm dreaming but I feel tired and bound
I'm dreaming of a day when a cold shower helps my health
I'm dreaming, dreaming of the day I can control myself
Day I can control myself

Drive like a priest and then I'm shooting lights
I'm burning tires with some guy whose hair is turning white
I know the girls that I pass, they just ain't impressed
I'm too old to give up, but too young to rest

I've got that numb-to-a-thumb over-dubbed
Feeling social when the world is sleeping
The plot starts to thicken then I sicken and I feel I'm cemented down
I'm so juiced that the whorey lady's sad sad story has me quietly weeping
But here comes the morning
Here comes the yawning demented clown

I'm dreaming but I know it's all hot air
I'm dreaming I'll get back to that rocking chair
I'm dreaming of the day I can share the wealth
I'm dreaming, dreaming of the day I can control myself
Day I can control myself.
Direct, if lacking a certain nuance. Here, though, is a Clive James poem: 'Deckard Was a Replicant':
The forms of nature cufflinked through your life
Bring a sense of what Americans call closure.
The full-blown iris swims in English air
Like the wreckage of an airbag jellyfish
Rinsed by a wave’s thin edge at Tamarama:
The same frail blue, the same exhausted sprawl,
The same splendour. Nothing but the poison
Is taken out. In the gallery, that girl
Has the beauty that once gave itself to you
To be turned into marriage, children, houses.
She will give these things to someone else this time.
If this time seems the same time, it’s because
It is. The reason she is not for you
Is she already was. Try to remember
What power they have, knowing what sex is for:
Replacing us. The Gainsborough chatelaine
She studies wears a shawl dipped in the hint
Of jacaranda blossoms, yet it might
Remind her of sucked sweets, or the pale veins
Of her own breasts. Setting the Thames on fire,
The tall white-painted training ship from Denmark
Flaunts the brass fittings of the little ferry
That took you as a child to Kirribilli
On its way to Wapping, then the Acheron
And Hades. Those gulls that graze the mud
Took sixty years to get here from Bundeena.
At an average speed of forty yards an hour
They barely moved. It seems you didn’t either.
You stood still with your head wrapped in the armour
Of perception’s hard-wired interlocking habits.
Ned Kelly was the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
Dazzled by lipstick pulped from waratahs,
The smoker coughs, having been born again.
The same thing? More nuance, obviously; and a slightly less unillusioned perspective. But I like the thought that time travel, and science fiction, might hold back the brutal truth of Townshend's barbaric yawp.

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