The official name for this road is Victoria Road,
named to honour a dead queen,
who was born in the previous century
under a walnut throne, hundreds of miles
from the plank palace of Buckingham Shed.
I collected Victoria's worn brown pennies
and thought myself a millionaire
because some of them had been
in and out of pockets
since eighteen thirty seven.
How many rich hands of flesh
have become the X-ray's future?
The locals called Victoria Road, State Hill.
The crown of State Hill was the State Cinema,
a detached building built in the nineteen twenties
to show silent movies.
When filmgoers discovered language
people who went to the cinema learnt to talk.
On the slopes of State Hill history parallels fiction.
The history of speech is, in part, the history
When humans discovered
how to manipulate the vocal cords,
syllables mated in an alphabet of sound.
Articulating the human tongue put a stop
to the piano becoming the dominant language.
The First World War
was recorded in complete silence.
The mouths of the dying
opened and closed
as if the whole thing
had been dubbed by tanks of goldfish.
By the time I was born
everyone was talking about
the films of The Second World War.
The blitz was a memory
older Plymouthians carried around inside.
I couldn't see through
the brown and the blue
and the broken windows.
The State Cinema looked like a council house.
It was big enough to be a mansion,
a stately home for the working class.
built in an era when men were
not yet dumper truck drivers
and cranes were not quite herons —
when cheese was cheese and cholesterol
was sneaking around in the dark
and the future was an unsliced sandwich.
When The State Cinema closed,
the cinema shape-shifted into a snooker hall.
In the interests of continuity
night followed day.
Dracula, played by Christopher Lee
wearing a waistcoat, passes the keys
of the building over to Ray Reardon.
As if holding rifles men with long sticks
look from one end of the stick to the other
the first One Four Seven in St. Budeaux,
recorded live on local radio.
Reaching for the chalk,
reaching for the unreachable sky,
riding multiple shotgun
on a cavalcade
of State Hill stagecoaches
towards Foundation Primary
and The Blue Monkey,
the road bending away
from the symbolic narrative
of a film-set sun set.
After dark Robert Mitchum was a familiar face
in the frontier settlement of Woodland Fort.
When he rode down the trail from Caradon Hill
the streets emptied,
became a glimpse
of the ghost town to come.
When I grow up I want to be a cowboy
and shoot people for a living.
Eam a reputation for being quick on the draw.
Go to Art College and study Fine Art.
I want to become Sheriff of Honicknowle County.
I'll keep the peace and the Wild West
in Buckingham Shed for safekeeping.
I'll drive the Wells Fargo stagecoach
back to the bungalow
where Dale Robertson is living.
I'll organise a cattle drive every year
and move them longhorns from one end
of The Fields to the other.
The cattle drive will be
when the sun sets,
when The Fields
are covered with cow shit,
when the coffee and beans
are passed around the campfire,
when the farting begins.
When cows are singing
cow songs out on the grass.
When my father's fallen asleep
with Loma Doone in his lap again.
When my mother's in the Corporation village
of Ambridge dancing with Walter Gabriel
I'll be on the rooftop of The State Cinema
listening to The Rolling Stones on Radio Caroline
while below decks in the fog
of another desert island darkness,
an usherette's torch searches the projection box
for a short cut to Treasure Island,
or supper for two on State Hill.
Sharing a bag of chips on the way home to make a sequel
to The Honicknowle Book Of The Dead
with the cowboys of Wild West Park.