9. Present

Every Bloody Emperor

By this we are all sustained: a belief in human nature
and in justice and parity…all we have is the faith to carry on.

Imperceptible the change as our votes become mere gestures
and our lords and masters determine to cast us
in the roles of serfs and slaves
in the new empire’s name.

Yes and every bloody emperor claims that freedom is his cause
as he buffs up on his common touch as a get-out clause.

Unto nations nations speak in the language of the gutter;
trading primetime insults the imperial impulse
extends across the screen.
Truth’s been beaten to its knees; the lies embed ad infinitum
till their repetition becomes a dictum
we’re traitors to disbelieve.
With what impotence we grieve for the democratic process
as our glorious leaders conspire to feed us
the last dregs of imperious disdain
in the new empire’s name.

Yes and every bloody emperor’s got his hands up history’s skirt
as he poses for posterity over the fresh-dug dirt.
Yes and every bloody emperor with his sickly rictus grin
talks his way out of nearly anything but the lie within
because every bloody emperor thinks his right to rule divine
so he’ll go spinning and spinning and spinning into his own decline.

Imperceptible the change as one by one our voices falter
and the double standards of propaganda
still all our righteous rage.

By this we are all sustained: our belief in human nature.
But our faith diminishes – close to the finish,
we’re only serfs and slaves
as the empire decays.

Nutter Alert

It might come in a letter,
darkness falls in a telephone call;
I await the unexpected
with one ear to the party wall.
Is it the pricking of the conscience,
is it the itching of hair shirt,
is it the dictionary definition
of a precipice to skirt?
It’s the nutter alert.

Though this face is familiar
something in it has bred contempt;
I never asked for your opinion
or your back-handed compliments.
Oh, but here comes that special nonsense
all the words out in a spurt,
the unhinging of the trolley
as the mouth begins to blurt…
It’s the nutter alert

I can see we’re in trouble
from that glint in the eye you’ve got;
there’s no sense to the story,
comprehensively lost, the plot.
And how contorted is that logic
you so forcefully exert:
you’re a car crash in the making,
head-on, that’s a racing cert.
It’s the nutter alert,
This is the nutter alert.

Abandon Ship!

Oh, the heptagenarians got behind the decks
while the skeleton crew went through the motions.
It was only the medication that was keeping them erect.
Yeh, the devil got the best tunes
so god knows what comes next.

And it’s difficult to think of anything less magic
than the aged in pursuit of the hip.
At the lifeboat station there’s a mounting panic…
they’re going overboard for this one –
Abandon ship!

Oh, the humanitarians took themselves below
while they tried to debate the latest motion;
meanwhile only the medication served to keep them on the go.
So it’s devil take the hindmost:
We sail on the sloop John Doe.

And it’s difficult to think of anything that’s factual
now we find ourselves in Alzheimer’s grip;
so at disembarkation it’s no names, no pack-drill,
we’re all anonymous on this one –
Abandon ship!

In Babelsberg

The city’s spread beneath my feet,
but not the one that I was after
while I’ve been pounding out this beat
the length of the Kudamm.
Street legends on the tourist map,
a fading script in Gothic,
out in the studio they’re
rehearsing in drag for a lark.
Come on, let’s get lost in the dark.

Tale another step, another move, another pace,
what isn’t written in the manuscript is a note to play with grace
and if I exit from this story in a way I might retrace
it will have fallen through the cracks when I come back
in any case
another time’s another place.

The city’s spread beneath my feet
from the top of the Mercedes tower
and I can see the darkness closing in
hour by hour.

But I can’t take another step, no filling in, no cut and paste,
a bankrupt process for the memory, this terrain is laid to waste.

No, nothing’s written in the history books
that doesn’t leave a nasty taste;
so should I start to tell the story
will you put me in my place?
'Cause it’ll all be crash and burn
when I return…in any case
another time’s another place.

Just when did this get broken?
I don’t know where to begin –
I got a Ubahn ticket and a Flohmarkt token….
I’m in trouble in the rubble of Berlin

The light is getting dimmer,
the walls of history close in.
In Babelsberg they’re hunting
for a different Stimmung
that predates the war.

That was before,
that was before,
that was a different Berlin,
that was another Berlin,
that was before in Berlin.

On the Beach

If we had all the time in the world
we might talk about how it used to be.
We could have thrown in our cards
when the going got hard
but evidently we went on interminably.

Right now I want to walk towards the sea,
hoping you’re still in step with me.
All joking apart let’s play it from the heart
because at last even the Silver Surfer agrees:
the wave you brave
rides on a deeper complexity.

Ah, come on: surf’s up!

Even the Silver Surfer agrees.

All lyrics by Peter Hammill

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