Peter Hammill -
Eat my Words, Bite my Tongue
Best to say nothing at all,
no shot from the hip;
you might say something appalling,
a confidence tripped off the tongue.
Better to keep the mouth zipped,
your silence preserved.
Go through the night with your lips sealed,
for truth is best served by discretion.
Best to refrain,
don't excuse or explain,
no, engage that dull brain
I should have listened, for once, to my own advice,
I should have paid attention.
I was so eager to have my say,
I fell in love with the sound of my own damn voice.
I never thought how offensive the line might seem
if taken out of context.
My best intentions all fall away
and it's no laughing matter,
now I can't pack that jabberwock back in the box.
No way to take back the hasty phrase,
no chance to unspeak the sentence
that hangs in the air,
held up by the jaw-dropped silence.
I know you're going to walk away.
Although I make my retraction
it can't be unsaid
and my foot's in my mouth for good.
Clearly I'd eat my words
when all is said and done.
By now you'd think I might have learned
to bite my tongue.
That Wasn't What I Said
The way this narrative's unfolding
I've got in way above my head,
sense I'm about to be held to account for
some things I never did, some words I never said.
I can tell you're keen to hold my attention
though my concentration's starting to fade
as you set out your stall and say that you're ready
to wait for the pay-out on promises I never made.
Don't know where this is going,
I don't know if we're speeding up or slowing down.
You haven't read the questions,
I haven't got the answers now,
it looks as though we've run aground.
Better bring it on, get the motor running;
surely we don't belong, but let's pretend anyway.
So the story's gone wrong no-one saw it coming -
moving along will we be moving away
to another life where we might not be strangers?
Might be husband and wife, might find our future assured?
Time and tide that's enticed, none of that could change us.
Oh but you don't think twice, just make up what's gone before.
I don't know where that came from,
a strange imagination's got
a stranglehold on you.
You talk as if you know me:
in reality you haven't got
the faintest clue.
And now this narrative's exploding,
through a merry dance your fantasies have sped.
Still you say my words are in your heart forever:
"I'll always love you....".
That wasn't what I said.
You can repeat it as often as you like,
the story won't ring true.
You've been inventing a cocktail of confections
no-one believes but you.
Contradictory fictions together form a track:
once the words have been spoken they're out
and you can't take them back.
Opinions you've ventured adrift upon the wind,
no council is kept your own,
As quiet as you whisper your thoughts can't be preserved
for one person's ears alone.
There's always an eavesdropping multitude in on your words.
You always were
Nothing's secret now,
nothing's safe and sound,
You didn't mean it to come out as it did
but the narrative still escaped.
Benign indiscretions and confidences spilled,
they've got them all down on tape
and sooner or later they'll hold you to account.
I hear you've been spouting
all kinds of poppycock
to any prepared to hear.
Better be careful,
don't speak so loud or so clear.
Remember whatever you say can't be unsaid,
not once it's tripped off the tongue.
A flippant aside might in later light be taken
as proof of a smoking gun.
And so here's a maxim for life you'd do well to observe -
choose your words
as if you were constantly overheard.
She wants to be your new pen-pal,
wants to regale you with some confidences.
You might consider there'll be consequences to address
when all the fences break down.
She wants to be your new neighbour,
she doesn't care much about conventional boundaries
and personal space is just a piece of ground
she's ready to break.
She's aching to take you on now.
She's closing in,
she's homing in,
she's on a mission.
She wants to be your new girlfriend,
won't take the answer "no" if you advance it,
she makes her move and yes, she takes her chances
when she can.
Chances are she's taking you down.
She's on a mission.
She wants to be your new pen-pal.
Close to Me
I got no sense of danger,
when I met her at first,
though with hindsight's cold certainty
I was always a target.
From the very start
she'd been training her sights on me.
I only later discovered
to her family and friends
she'd refer to me constantly
as if our casual acquaintance
were a bigger thing.
But I'm not part of her history,
no I'm not part of the action,
I've no part in the plot.
In all honesty
she was never that close to me.
When I heard of the stories
she'd been spreading around,
the malevolent fantasies
I broke off any contact,
thought that was civilised.
How could I have been so naive?
I've been dumb and defenceless
while she's been dogging my steps
She got dangerously close you see,
she got dangerously close to me.
All the Tiredness
All the tiredness that you've held in waiting,
now comes rushing in.
Floods the bloodstream, burrows in the brainstem,
grinds down bone-deep,
the exhaustion's stored from way back when.
All the tiredness you've postponed forever,
the price you pay for simply keeping your hand in.
Hold the darkness back for a moment.
Hold the darkness back for just as long as you can.
So, suddenly very slow,
suddenly can't outrun the undertow.
No, suddenly I don't know
anything but this sense of letting go.
Low, down to the ground I go,
beaten down by the years of body blows.
Though I made it through the shows
something got left behind, a debt I owe....
All the tiredness
held in store
saved up from before
my old friend
mounts up in the end
wears you down in the end
mounts up in the end.
Upon Charles Bridge he's frozen in a gesture,
looks like he's waiting for a moment to arrive,
some special currency to connect him to the zeitgeist...
He's traipsed around the towns, the landmarks of Old Europe,
looking to link between the present and the past
and here at last he feels ghosts crowding in around him
for the photograph.
All that he wants to be
an image of mystery;
a backdrop, a profile, a choice location,
feeding his imagination.
Instead of memories to hold him in the game
he'd rather wrap time's frame around him.
No need for memories, they all feel much the same,
he'd rather stay in character.
A centre spread in a paper,
an unpicked thread in a magazine.
He's lost himself in being here so often.
Though life's got harder as the focus softened.
he's made his only purpose the pursuit
of posing for the perfect photograph.
Out of shot the light's bleeding
and time comes apart at the seams.
He'll disappear, it's nearly time,
the shutter's opening.
And now exposure's come,
and he's all transparency in the aperture,
gone to the ghosts.
They'll hold him close,
in the perfect pose.
A figure by the traffic lights,
face washed out in the rain,
she's here once more to make her nightly
stand for love and pain.
Her story written on her face
reading between the lines;
still private in this public place
she's carefully designed
her open secret.
Reliant on their charity
to feed and clothe her kids
she holds a card out to the drivers,
behind it safely hidden
her little sceret,
for their eyes alone.
And she only needs a moment of weakness,
window wound down just a crack,
and she'll explode with all that pent-up stuff inside her
with her scissors,
Here's the edge,
this is the moment
when all the fear floods in apace.
Time to clear my head,
my demeanour emboldened,
of trepidation betray no trace.
Time to put on my bravest face.
Quite the nine-stone weakling,
who am I trying to kid
that I can carry all before me
as my heroes did?
Unafraid, oh what I'd give
to walk the walk with my head held high,
to stare down my demons.
But sadly I'm not remotely like
that kind of guy.
Bluster and bravado, every human power,
I summon up what strength I have
to face what cows me down.
Now's the hour.
Frozen in the spotlight,
in my sad efforts to sustain
a heroic pose.
Though I'm scared as hell
still I know it's only natural
to feel so vulnerable and alone:
in extremis we're on our own.
It's time to take my place
and hold my head up,
time to wear with grace
my bravest face.
A Run of Luck
this circuit's broken,
the juice is drained,
the body weak and the head is bowed.
what stays unspoken
will prove to be a truer word
than any we shout out loud,
chests puffed up proud.
Oh, life's so cheap that there's no doubt
you'll be in too deep when your luck runs out,
when you run aground, when you're done.
Pay the debts,
play the position,
just don't pretend
that you've not known all of this before.
distressed conditions combine.
When time runs out
we know we can't ask for any more.
This much is sure:
that life's still great though the wick's burned up.
You can only wait till your luck turns up.
Still you're spun around
until you're done.