Autobiographical Note

Source: Vernon Scannell, ‘Autobiographical Note’, Collected Poems 1950-1993 (London: Faber & Faber, 2010)

Beeston, the place near Nottingham;
We lived there for three years or so,
Each Saturday at two o’clock
We queued up for the matinee,
All the kids for streets around
With snotty noses; giant caps,
Cut down coats and heavy boots,
The natural enemies of cops
And schoolteachers. Profane and hoarse
We scrambled, yelled and fought until
The Picture Palace opened up
And then, like Hamelin children, forced
Our bony way into the Hall.
That much is easy to recall;
Also the reek of chewing-gum,
Gob-stoppers and liquorice,
But of the flickering myths themselves
Not much remains. The hero was
A milky, wide-brimmed hat, a shape
Astride the arched white stallion.
The villain’s horse and hat were black.
Disbelief did not exist
And launched virtue always won
With quicker gun and harder fist
And all of us applauded it.
Yet I remember moments when
In solitude I’d find myself
Brooding on the sooty man,
The bristling villain, who could move
Imagination in a way
The well-shaved hero never could,
And even warm the nervous heart
With something oddly close to love.

Comments: Vernon Scannell (1922-2007) was a British poet. His impoverished family lived for a time in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in the late 1920s.