Week 12 – 21 March 2014 – Non-Petty Pilfering

I was commissioned by the Radio 3 programme The Verb – a cabaret of the word – to write a song for their residency at the Southbank. They asked me to celebrate 52 Fridays by going to the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre and write a song. I went and was struck by the notice about the amount of thefts of books from the library. I wondered what kind of people steal from a poetry library. I decided there must be a compassionate reason above and beyond financial gain. I came up with an unaccompanied folk ballad. Here is the demo of it. The show will be broadcast on 28th March at 10pm. I’ll post a video of the recording of it soon. Meanwhile here – without a finger in my eye – is the song. Did anyone mention Rambling Sid Rumpo?

Non-Petty Pilfering

The world’s full of people who want to give
Full of people who want to take
Sadly in the Venn diagram of them
There’s little cross over
The givers want to dispense advice, thoughts, poems, songs, stories
The takers want stuff
So the warnings appear in the library
And books disappear out of here everyday reappearing only on ebay
These people are not other than me
I understand it shamefully
I took home “We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea”
When I was 8. They were my friends
Those children, I didn’t want to share them
I wanted their story to end with me
The books in here have been speaking for years
See the sweat in the pages
The breaks in the spines
The Twix pressed in the cover of Anne Sexton’s To Bedlam and Halfway Back
I sit hidden at the end of the Ss
Flicking through Tupac Shakur
Every word spoken in here sounds like a poem
“If Shakespeare were writing now / he wouldn’t get a look in”
I’m sure that fella is not a thief
He’s a giver not a taker
Generous with his opinions
And not keen on listening
But the notes scribbled on Stevie Smith
Talk of years of conversation
I’m a grown up now so if I take her home
Her story ends with me
And that feels like theft to me
As I left my gloves and took my leave
My eye was caught by Rugby Songs Vol 1
I chuckled heartily at the filth
I went back for my gloves not stolen thankfully
And left humming Eskimo Nell

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