It Was Darker Then

Theatre, Minsk

The National Opera & Ballet Theatre, Minsk – creating the building before creating the art

It was darker then

It was darker then

The day dulled before the dawn

As I pulled up the flap of the future

memories crawled like maggots towards my heart

abandoned like fresh roadkill

in the path of the emotional bulldozers

clearing the way ahead, blinding the traffic

in the glare of the new Glasnost.

We were all party members in the old days

Card carrying pessimists, romance politicals,

Intolerant love Bolsheviks in a red mist of fury

Our angry love demanding manifesto pledges

Ahead of marriage vows as protest marched on.

It was darker then

In the no men and women’s land

Between the trenches of the past and future

When the red seeped into the white

Like an embolism of emotion

Bruising the perfect untouched ideas of a generation

Used to pumping blood in vain.

And as today’s clarion speeches are left in toilets

And whistle blowers purse their lips in dismay

We wonder why the great barricades

Look designer-made, as the would-be heros

audition on reality TV

and the everyday Watergates burst open

with tiny pustular pops and the dogs of headlines

whimper and eye the storybones with suspicion

 wondering what teeth are for when we are all vegetarian now.

It was darker then

When I brokered my first love deal

And gingerly felt the mutual bumps of our ambition

Debating great men and their place in dialectical materialism

Writing rapier essays that hurt to read

Because the words we used were the clubs we belonged to

And the blows we clubbed with

We were the boys of the Brigade

Part of the loose, easy movement, falling like the Berlin Wall

And the statue of Stalin fleeing St Petersburg.

It was darker then

With love blocked by Communism

And the father of future Milibands altering his salutation from Adolf

leaving Warsaw for the West End watering holes

While the State in Capitalist Society plays Polo by Ralph Lauren

And Tariq the Street Fighting Man

Plays Glastonbury in an ash and chestnut yurt

Whilst the reluctant fans of austerity hurt

and blurt out their pain in little red books

From Redchurch Street, E2.

It was darker then

Before the revolution of the revolving doors

And the advent of the insurrection chic

Standing in front of the tank tops in Trafalgar Square

Not backing down until the petition is signed

100,000 times online

we operate behind the lines

we are the subversives, submerged with guilt about coming out on top

we leak quietly like a million twitch-eyed whistle blowers

in a silent movie by Dali and Bunuel.

I screamed in silence for years

exploring the blade-edge in avant-garde suffering,

an impressionist pavement preacher in Paris

painting love in angles and tears, until I met you,

until the sunlight floodlines filtered into a new Perestroika

in the smallest empire in the world

called you and me.

Roy Stannard 4th July 2013

Live on air reading TW9Y 4.7.13 here:

2 thoughts on “It Was Darker Then

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