Adrian Slatcher’s Playing Solitaire for Money

 
 
 
Adrian Slatcher was born in Walsall in 1967 and grew up in Norton Canes, Staffordshire. He studied English in Lancaster and Creative Writing in Manchester where he currently lives. He works as a project manager primarily helping the arts to understand technology. He writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction and regularly blogs about literary matters at http://artoffiction.blogspot.com.
 
 
 

  
 
“From urban nature poems to noir nightmares Adrian Slatcher’s Playing Solitaire for Money (Salt Publishing, 2010) provides a new take on our globalised experience, seeing us as small parts in ‘a colossal machine’. The poems range from the dark to the surreal to the amusing, and are deeply engaged with understanding our fast-moving information-rich world.”
 
 
 
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The Death of the Grand Gesture
 
 
Something was broken with us, early,
          Like a hairline crack in an antique vase,
Unseen at that time,
          But now that it’s broke, we can see was always there.
 
Five years earlier and we’d have been the luckiest brood,
          Avoiding war, and getting funded through art school,
Free love, denim, David Bowie and punk rock.
          Five years later, and we’d be brimming with alcopops
Raving in Ibiza, Ugg boots and iPods.
 
What broke in us, was a collective curse,
          Like we were ladybirds in a jar,
Shaken for fun. Sick with the motion—
          Born for one world, yet not ready for another.
 
Only now, do we see the damage, not all of us,
          No way. There are survivors of the disaster,
Just as there are the survivors of any catastrophe,
          Living with their unearned guilt, quietly mourning
The death of the grand gesture.
 
And I am sick with it still, like radiation;
          We couldn’t avoid the taint
However often we marched. Our struggles are sadder
          For being our own, not validated by history.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
1983
 
 
In 1983 we look unlike our memory of ourselves.
It is long enough now to be a distinctive past.
The colours have all but faded from the photograph.
Demi-perms and tight jeans of a low budget movie poster.
None of us could have weighed more than ten stone.
The last generation to grow up before consumerism took hold.
There is innocence there, and the limits of our ambition.
The space shuttle launched—reaching escape velocity.
But we never had that sense of propulsion. The suburbs
     constrict us.
We were not a golden generation, but solid bronze, steady metal,
And we reconnect the random friendships of that time
Through a photograph posted on a website.
These two have married. And this one died.
The low quality scan of a 5 by 3 original
Cannot offer more than a surface image.
Memory, more than any photograph, has the deeper root.
 
 
 
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Love and Death in the American Novel
 

Cars like buzzards preying on the carcass of the prairie;
Ragged Indian scouts broke-boned with ageing;
Slim orphans running the decks on the Mississippi paddles;
And the stiff-lipped patriarch seeing out his years;
 
Knowing only that with his death, so the Confederacy,
With its flag no longer flying but in tatters, burning;
The Chicago Irish and the New York Italians—
Or was it the other way round?—are gambling
 
At the ball game; clambering for a stake in Vegas;
Watching Jay Gatsby bet all on snake-eyes;
Cacti flowering in a desert canyon, snow-caked hills;
Lazy trailer children doing hop and for a dime
 
Stripping every stranger of his innocence.
It came to me in a picture house watching Fonda
Playing against type as Leone’s bad cowboy;
That whatever comes, comes to him that dreams . . .
 
Migrant victims of hope and war and money’s weak
Sense of what is good and right and true;
Of life and hate in American lives and
Love and death in the American novel.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
A Problem with Genre
 
 
Or was it a farce? I would like to think I played some part in
     an epic.
A thousand ships for Helen! Well, for you a thousand more,
And the men to sail them—but we were more a short,
Forgotten, shown for two nights only on a tiny screen,
 
I extemporised, preferred to work from the director’s mark,
Never that good at learning lines, I wrote them down—
You were wanting a film for all the family,
Whilst I had adult themes in mind.
 
Always you had a problem with genre, after all,
You’d played opposite a romantic lead, and I was merely colour—
A jobbing actor: worse, the second-line writer,
Coming in to doctor a script already beyond repair.
 
And had we done good box office and been showered with awards
I guess we could have stayed that way, a golden couple.
But the audience did not want to see you playing against type,
Ditching your domestic roles, unbecoming as the vamp.
 
 
 
 
from Playing Solitaire for Money (Salt Publishing, 2010).
 
Order Playing Solitaire for Money.
 
Visit Adrian’s blog.
 
 
 
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