25 May — 16 June 2017

‘Overture’ by Zaffar Kunial (England)

Inspired by Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Theme: Look at us

we’d like to take you home with us
we’d love to take you home

Rushing down the hill the signs are the same.
At the end of Birchcliffe Road comes Birch Place
which for the nth time I read as Birth Place.
So many years, so many miles from my first room,
though the way the trains go now nothing’s that far.
Who’d have thought, twenty years ago, we could
travel, pitched like music, dark matter, through
solid walls? Soon I’ll be at the station, and back
in my first room’s unnerving foothold. Once,
barefoot among toys, I shuddered. First thought:
(somehow preverbal) what’s under my toes?
Second thought: I’ve stepped on a needle. Third:
the metal is hot. After lifting my foot,
it took an instant before word and warm instinct
caught up with the worlds beneath me … wasp.
Dead, but not. I’d think of it when steel touched
vinyl and old beginnings revolved. Once,
Paul’s voice, in the desert of Mono, shouting
FOUR – as in one two three … was my dad,
downstairs, calling ZafFAR, far past the closed
door. There were times it wasn’t my name but DOOR
– as in Oi, close the … but it is shut I’d think,
turning, each time. Another disc, another planet.
‘This is a stereo recording’. I stare then and now

at the sleeve. Around a drum, a crowd of stars.
Yogis, gurus, cut-out faces – Sir Robert
Peel who I’d seen as a kid in Mum’s birth place,
a monument, ignorant of its patience or the lengths
it would go to. Once, I put a pin on an atlas –
ruled a line – between Mum’s birth place
and Dad’s. The exact centre would hold my start,
I’d decided. The dot fell in the Black Sea.
I lowered the needle once more on the album,
a lone heart in the middle – and it begins. *silence*
*violins tuning*, *unseen audience*, *a hum* –
the sound of background cosmic radiation.
A drum, a drum. At the start was the densest dot,
there was not even an around, around this
tiny point – thousands of times more hot
than the sun’s centre – a crescendo reversed,
so compact, you could pin the light down, perhaps.
Or light’s first, closed, bedroom door …
I’ve arrived at the station, thinking how death’s
the A-side to birth’s B-side, and how fast
we travel, these days – dematerialised – gone –
come back.  A wavering cloud of star dust, going
in and out of spheres. Each me reprised – to
act one –
the act you’ve known for all these years.


Zaffar Kunial was born in Birmingham and lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He published a pamphlet in the Faber New Poets series in 2014 and was Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust in the same year. His first full poetry collection is forthcoming with Faber & Faber.