Then in the twentieth century

by David Hart

Then in the twentieth century they invented transparent adhesive tape,
the first record played on Radio 1 was Flowers In The Rain by the Move,
and whereas ink had previously been in pots, now it was in cartridges.

They killed each other a lot and found ingenious and crafty ways to do it,
sometimes one person got killed, sometimes eleven, sometimes ninety-eight,
and some of the new equipment managed a million or more, it was, friends,

spectacular. Seymour, Foggy and Blamire gave audiences week by week
a chuckle, between 1941 and 1958 the New York Yankees won the world series
ten times, I did my A Levels, failed Physics twice, got Chemistry and Zoology,

and cycled a lot and drew maps. C. Day Lewis wrote a poem, The Tourists,
and George Steiner said, ‘We must all learn to be guests of each other’,
I decided, in making my own poems, against punch lines, and lost in stages all

of my upper teeth. Peter Sutcliffe in 1987 confessed to thirteen murders,
when I was young we had no television, but we did have ice cream in cones.
Redundant churches became clubs, community centres, galleries or homes,

the phrase ‘The best thing since sliced bread’ (or not) got into the language,
Sir Basil Spence won the competition to build the new Coventry Cathedral,
I was born by the sea then lived in cities, Matisse in his old age made cut-outs.

One afternoon at precisely four-twenty, on the corner of Corporation Street,
wearing old jeans and a new red jacket, sheltering in a shop front from the rain,
she saw a man stab another man to death, blood everywhere, people screaming.

Men quarrelled about scrolls found in pots near the Dead Sea, the library
at Norwich burned down, milk was pasteurised by law, I have four children,
all adult now, small islands became uninhabited, Harpo never spoke on film.