00:00 / 02:45

BALLAD OF THE CINEMATOGRAPH ACT

it was February, I think.

a cool evening 

in 1910.

 

“cinema for the sinners!”, they called it,

screening on the sabbath

like some kinematic-anarchist 

daring to show a film on a Sunday 

 

soaking London Bridge 

with a tsunami of

cinematic sin in attic rooms

for the unwelcome

and disobedient.

 

I told them the brigade should extinguish fires,

They told me the brigade could extinguish 

whatever it bloody well pleased.

 

flames are twofold

to The National Council of Public Morals;

igniting blistered nitrate and

inciting inflammatory thought;

two crimes, 

which I have now committed.

semantically warped, 

their definitions fastly penned 

and bent to defend the ones in charge.

 

the joy of rewriting unwritten law, 

is that you get to make it up from scratch.

 

three legs fizz

in a spill of melting celluloid

crimsoned reels bubble 

and burst on my eyelids

my fingers burn 

at the touch of a crumbling lens

and the council knocks the door down.

 

Accordingly they prosecute 

my accordion, and confiscate 

the undertaker’s favourite film.

 

From penny gaff to sterling courthouse overnight, 

All for a few feet of comedy

On the wrong day of the week. 

 

By morning, 

the flames of Sunday had spread.

Three fires In my borough, 

Each extinguished 

With a pious hosepipe 

secreting liquid morality

 

Quelling the heat 

And the shouts

And the laughter-

 

Each penny-picturehouse was alight

only with the flare from A dusty projector, 

a crowded room, 

And naked phantoms 

writhing across the wallpaper.

 

I wasn’t the first to break the rules.

Only the first to kick up a fuss, 

Enough that they’d enforce it

in pen and ink. 

And eviction

and law. 

 

The heat never bothered us before.

It didn’t feel like burning; 

More like a bonfire of broken images

That kept us warm 

For the night.