Poetry (Graduate)

in #12.1/Blog/McKinney 2012 Winners

Poetry (Graduate)

An American Summer

by Simon Ellis

1.         Ext. Establishing shot


Endless city by the endless ocean


you roll on


neighbourhoods breaking against the freeways


green sea-spume road signs

washing over the shore


sunset undertow dragging me out



to yield myself

to the warmth of your inimitable embrace

and drown in sunshine



2.         Ext. Valley Village


You don’t tend to think of L.A.

as anything but ever-blessed

by skies of depthless carbuncle blue. Grey

is just not something one expects,

raised on the sugar-high, content-nugatory diet

of exported, locally-produced propaganda,

where everyone is beautiful, and the beaches

are endless, and the sky


blue sky


cerulean, azure backcloth

unheeding of smog and man’s earthly scarifications


blue sky oh so far above


just goes on,

like the Pacific,

for ever.


But for a whole week, grey is what we had,

and in fact one night it even rained,

soft and whispery,

a stage-set rain hidden in the night,

like the actor unsure of his lines

and late for the shoot,

sliding belatedly into place. Without them

the production is less, but of course

they’re the ones who never get the headline,

who the camera never comes to love,

and each of whom goes through their lives

as the everlasting also-ran.

The rain came in the night,

tapping softly upon the windows and the plants;

comforted by the familiar, I slept.



3.         Ext. A back garden in Santa Monica


In the quiet of my mind I take your hand:

with all of my heart I love you,

with all of my soul I desire you

and the rest of my life I give to you,

to be your friend, lover and wife (husband),

in the sight of the Gods, always.


This is yours, my love, just as I am yours.

Wherever you are, there am I also,

and my love is with you always.



4.         Int. Night


Across the bowl of Santa Monica

the mist has crept in for the night,

an ethereal fade-to-black

that the massed ranks of skyscrapers

still shine through, backlighting the night.


Hollywoodland is closed: the sign,

epitome of ever-sun endlessness, guardian

of a thousand thousand shattered dreams

and the millions of souls who scurry around it,

worshipping its staggered symbology

and basking in its silent unspoken promises

so often believed. Hard to credit

that this place ever stops, ever rests,

that the lights around here are ever turned off.


5.         Int. Night (V.O.)


It has been a long day. Although

they went to bed a while ago,

I can hear the sounds

of their conversation

drifting upstairs.


And why not?


Tiredness notwithstanding,

who can easily

sleep easily

on their wedding night?



6.         Ext. (Montage)


a lone deer grazing by the railway track south of Alexandria, VA


lightning flashing in a storm in the prairies

and cotton-candy thunderclouds billowing up over Chicago


the multiplicity of churches in small-town Pennsylvania


the small towns

full of big houses on large lots

in the openness of the Midwest


the dark gathering so much earlier,

the night so welcoming and warm,

lit up by bright porch-lights and street-lights


city centres full of skyscrapers

broken teeth sawing at the clouds

beyond derelict blocks and abandoned lots


the endless sprawl of Los Angeles

crawling up and over and into the mountains


palm trees at San Bernardino station

a train, stopped

a platform of people

preparing for the long night


the endless, endless, endless skies and far-away horizons

of the plains country to the east


the brief bliss of the Continental Divide


the sweet joy of turning left at Albuquerque


the clear sky and the Milky Way

the stars brittle and clear, oh so clear

up in the high sierra

so close and so many, scattered across the sky

and not a human light to be seen


travelling south into rain from Washington D.C.


small towns everywhere

full of signs unchanged since the fifties


and an old man panhandling at Grand Union Station, Chicago


the fireflies

that coalesce greenly from the evening light

and dance


dance for love

and for the gathering twilight


the constant moan of the locomotive’s horn

plaintive and lonely through the night


the on and on

and on

and on



on and on


the high and low

the great and small

the weak and strong

the rich and poor

the joy and the heartbreak


the all in all the on and on






7.         Character Development


He was the closest thing I’ve found so far

to the love of my life. Everything

was so easy with him, and I felt as though

I could say anything, do anything,

be anything and everything with him

and he would love me just the same, those hazel eyes

I would willingly have drowned in

that first begged me just to hold him

so long ago


so long ago


so far away


And I loved him:

I loved him as best I could,

I loved him with my heart

my mind

my soul

I put my arms around and I held him

felt his breath whisper into my shoulder

heard his happy sighs fill the air


We ran upstairs and had wonderful sex,

fucked and made love


so decadent at three-thirty

on a warm, June, sunny afternoon

in a soft and welcoming bed

in an apartment that we populated between us

again and again


and again


and again


And nothing


and nothing


and nothing




nothing but our bodies and our emotions mattered,

nor our same genders, not the time,

not that I was leaving in only a week —


nothing mattered in the slightest.


Afterwards, hot and sweaty, libidos

sated, we lay together and laughed. His eyes

repeated their plea, and I, willingly submitting to love’s hypnotism,

encircled his body with my arms.


And when he whispered my name

it came out like a prayer; for the first time

in my entire life

it had a true and genuine music:

his lips gave to that hated and tired, worn pair of syllables new life,

they cleansed it, made it whole once more,

shining and proud. “Here,” that single whisper seemed to say,

“this is yours. Look what you almost lost.”

Then he gazed up at me with those infinite eyes

and I fell, Narcissus, I fell,

to drown in the pink softness of his lips.


I loved him with all my heart

with all my soul

with all my all

at his feet I laid the rest of my life


but I could not love him with my body:

from first to last this vulgar charnel thing

refused to acknowledge my desire, remained aground,

asleep while the rest of me soared.

And so, in the end,

it was the littlest of things that decided us:

something he thought to be so immaterial

became the arbiter of all. I could not give him

what his beautiful body so deeply craved,

I could not transubstantiate my love and my desire

into simple, honest, fleshly lust.

For all my cleverness

all my learning

all my education

all my accomplishments

all my wit


this one, simple, vital thing

I just couldn’t fucking do.


Towns and cities and roads and trees

skies and clouds and days

streets and cars

people and places


and beyond them the air


blue blue air


all float past my window

as he slips rattlingly away into the distance behind.


Grief demands recompense, but now is not the time.

One day, in a quiet corner, I shall weep

for what was, so briefly, so intensely,

so wondrously the merge between us.



the world slides by

faster and faster

faster and faster

town and forest

lakes rivers seas sky air

all shooting by me like a dream


while I remain transfixed in time


frozen in grief and longing


and if I ever see you again

you will not look upon me the same way

your voice will never caress my name as it did that afternoon

that summer lazy afternoon

that afternoon beneath the sun









the whole civilisation of man

sliding past the train window

basks in effulgent warmth.


Oh, why, why, why


why isn’t it raining?


Oh why


oh why


oh why

does it have to be

a sunny afternoon.



8.         Emotional Hook


The morning I left him behind

I did laundry: I washed

the few clothes I had worn

while we had been together.

Some might say

that I was attempting

to wash away memories

to erase the past

to remove the scent of him from my clothes


but nothing could be further from the truth

though I grant

it is a fair accusation to make;


I could taste him

still upon my lips,

feel his body

pressed close to mine,

hear him whisper my name,

and with every breath I took

inhale from my freshly clean clothes

his scent.


And more: packed away in my luggage

more clean clothes,

more jack-in-the-box reminders

just waiting to be found and worn,

to fill my head and mind

with memories that need no reminders;


as if I could forget.




9.         Fade to black


I loved them both, him and her;

indeed, I was in love with them both,

but she did the usual trick of getting married to someone else


and anyway

she was his before she ever was mine

even in my most febrile dreams


and he

well I thought he was mine, for a while,

a while as a disembodied voice

and a picture or two

and a few days in the flesh


oh, the flesh

oh, what flesh


until the failure of my body

to fulfil love’s rites and rituals

gave him cause to think




that he would rather have a boyfriend

who could



as it turned out in the end

I’d been trespassing all along.


Overcast sky

vanishes where it wraps around the horizon

where it becomes a thin grey wash

so grey it appears the palest blue

from which planes materialise


like hopes

like dreams

like                  love


and into which they launch themselves again

just when you thought they might be here to stay


just as though they had never been.


10.       End theme (‘Firefly’)


I lit out from the sunset West one warm and summer’s eve:

The day before, my friends were wed; ’twas time for me to leave.

So I packed my grip and headed East and left them in their joy,

And went to see the lands I’d heard of since I was a boy.

As the train climbed high into the hills I heard somebody say,

“We’ll never come this way again, the way we come today.”


                        And the train keeps rolling forward: that’s the only way it can,

                        On across the friendly countryside and through lonesome towns of Man,

                        Towards a distant future shining like a firefly in the night;

                                    That distant future shining bright, that firefly in the night.



For three long days I wandered on through lands right strange to see,

Over rivers, under mountains, and from sea to shining sea,

Across desert, hill and prairie and through many a little town,

’Til at last I reached the trail’s end and I stepped on tiredly down.

I had no way of going back, no way to go but on:

Would I make myself a life here? Could I make this place my home?


                        And the train keeps rolling forward: that’s the only way it can,

                        On across the friendly countryside and through lonesome towns of Man,

                        Towards a distant future shining like a firefly in the night;

                                    That distant future shining bright, that firefly in the night.



Well, I tried my best, but I had to watch my little homestead fail:

There was nothing left for me to do but get back on the trail.

For there comes a time when every man must learn he can be wrong,

And he rides out for tomorrow, though the journey may be long.

So I go on blindly hoping, without ever knowing why,

And I dream about the life I’ll have when I catch that firefly.


                        And the train keeps rolling forward: that’s the only way it can,

                        On across the friendly countryside and through lonesome towns of Man,

                        Towards a distant future shining like a firefly in the night;

                                    That distant future shining bright, that firefly in the night.


                        And the train keeps rolling forward: that’s the only way it can,

                        On across the friendly countryside and through lonesome towns of Man,

                        Towards a distant future shining like a firefly in the night;

                                    That distant future shining bright,

                                    That day when all these hopes take flight

                                    And everything is gonna turn out right —

                                                That distant future shining bright, that firefly in the night.