Killing Joke

Any day could have been our last. The Threads scenario –
‘they’ve bloody done it’. Sheffield a grey-black abattoir
where language had regressed to grunt-speak.
In Devonport, the vaporised one mile from the Yard.
Any day could have been our last. Some almost were –
we heard about those near-misses later.

Of course, we laughed at Protect and Survive
and listened to Jaz and Geordie, Big Paul and Raven
as they hymned the ‘brighter-than-a-thousand-suns’
of the apocalypse next door with Geordie’s guitar,
louder than Cruise missiles, distorting the air
and Jaz, that manic harlequin, expressing the ironies

of what was to be the ‘twilight of the mortal’.
Now, we grow old as if the risk had not been there
and Jaz has decamped to Prague, and I to Budapest
as if there had never been a Wall or a stand-off in Europe –
but it lent us pace, that sense that Now could be our All
and more so than knowing that we will die

as we will, not ‘cut in full bloom’ but in ripeness or in rot,
leaving the world to other dramas
and its final heat-death, when our species is no more
and its words, its art, its fervent song and dance
are obliterated, without a single thread
to call us back. And so it was, that curse that was also a gift.



Norman Jope
Illustration: Claire Palmer





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