Peter Hammill - "This" 1998

  1. Frozen in Place (fragment)
  2. Unrehearsed
  3. Stupid
  4. Since the Kids
  5. Nightman
  6. Fallen (the City of Night)
  7. Unready (fragment)
  8. Always is Next
  9. Unsteady (fragment)
  10. The Light Continent

    Frozen in Place (fragment)



    Time for the unrehearsed entrance. 
    show  show a leg you can break, 
              down the cocktail 
              while it's laughing at you for heaven's sake... 
    I can't be your protector 
    from these deliberate mistakes. 
    Between the "can't" and the "maybe" 
    a lifetime's hovering in the wings: 
    grasp the nettle, bite the bullet 
    push your own buttons and pull your own strings. 
                   Name your poison 
                   while you've got the power, 100 proof. 
    I can't be your protector 
    from self-neglect or abuse. 
    This is not a rehearsal 
    and fear is not an excuse. 
    And if you won't step out on the boards 
    you'll find your place already on the shelf - 
    you can only find the sum of your parts yourself. 
    Unprepared and unready, 
    is that an excuse or point of view? 
    You can block out the words in anagrammatical sword play 
    but it's your own life you'll be running though. 
                      Time to drink a cocktail 
                      of your own invention for pity's sake. 
    I can't be your protector, 
    I won't be there when you wake 
    to honour all the hidden intentions 
    in your deliberate mistakes, 
    behind your deliberate mistakes. 
    Deliberation could be mistaken for coldness of the heart; 
    Procrastination won't get you anywhere except aloof and apart; 
    what's the golden opportunity on here for - 
    isn't it just this? 
    Go! Start! 
    Unrehearsed and unready 
    that's what we are, 
    what we've all been cast into... 
    It's not four square, the beat's unsteady 
    but this is this 
    and making something of it's up to you. 
    An unexpected exit's always waiting 
    although you think it's something you'll bluff your way through. 
    Spit that wooden spoon out of your mouth 
    and eat up - the moment's long overdue. 
                    Take your medicine 
                    and face whatever the future brings 
    I can't be your protector, 
    can't keep you under my wing. 
    This is not a rehearsal, 
    this is the real thing 
    this is the real thing. 
    This is for real. 


    (so stupid) 
    Along this pilgrim's accidental progress 
    I'd bump into the walls as like as not; 
    It's no surprise I didn't notice when I lost the plot. 
    I went and did something 
    (so stupid, so dumb) 
    Error-message ever more intensive, 
    red lights were burning on the air - 
    no I can't say that I was consequentially unaware 
    when I did something 
    (so stupid, so dumb) 
    I saw it coming 
    (so stupid) 
    now all I want to know is how come 
    (how come?) 
    we're all fingers and thumbs? 
    Confused but not entirely aimless, 
    though you might find comfort here is faint; 
    if we lived lives that were quite blameless then we'd all be saints; 
    I don't think so. 
    Get a life: 
    you've got to do something 
    (so stupid) 
    we all do something 
    (so dumb) 
    self-seed our own destruction 
    nobody understands it, how come we're all fingers and thumbs?

    Since the Kids

    It was simple, we were man and wife; 
    something happened to change everything in life 
    and made us fell small but we were giants nonetheless 
    and here we are all in the family portrait. 
    I've been sliding in a 2, 4-wheel skid: 
    something happened to me and since the kids 
    all time's gone awry, direction's askew... 
    I never thought that I 
    would ever feel so used up. 
    The sense of wonder, the note of panic, demands you just can't ignore 
    nothing prepares you to be a parent, 
    looking to join the strands of the broken chord. 
    What you wanted, what I couldn't give... 
    something happened to us - oh, but since the kids 
    inherit the earth 
    we had to plough and drill the field, 
    nurture the shoots with our hopes and fears, 
    never wonder about the future yield. 
    (Never wonder, never wonder, this is real) 
    I've been thinking about all we did, 
    much mistaken but anyway, since the kids 
    are now almost grow with the future in their own hands 
    what's done is done - there'll be no unmaking our half-baked plans. 
    Here comes the gold watch, I'll take the pension, I want the lifetime award; 
    all for the best, with the best of intentions, the children are their own reward... 
    mend the broken chord.


    At the dead of night, I woke 
    with the sense that my dreams were escaping, 
    all uncannily unspoken 
    like words at the tip of a foreign tongue... 
    As for language, I have none 
    to express quite what strangeness overwhelms me: 
    something's changed and something tells me 
    to be still in the roar of the distant stars. 
                    The night's full of fire, ice and water; 
                    by day I'll have clay in my hands. 
    The book is open at a well-thumbed mark 
    the odds are stacked that I'm facing. 
    Eyes grown accustomed to light and dark 
    can't catch the shadows they're chasing. 
    Open, my heart, to the vital spark - 
    a disordered rhythm is racing, 
    it's a dance macabre I'm tracing. 
    As the fire feeds the flame, 
    as the tongue finds expression in its flickering, 
    does each breath inform a name 
    to be dispersed just a soon as it's exhaled? 
    Was it to myself I came 
    or to some other strange and parallel existence? 
    Will I ever see tomorrow, 
    to wake and begin it again? 
    Open, the book at a well-read page, 
    hope triumphs over expectation; 
    open, the secrets of seer and sage 
    in awe-inspired anticipation... 
    Open, my mind in the body's cage, 
    unchained in consecration; 
    open, my eyes, to the wider stage 
    the firestorm of liberation - 
    the night in conflagration. 
    With a shiver down my spine 
    I come back to the place where I started; 
    the sea of consciousness has parted 
    but stranded is all that I feel for sure. 
                    As nightsight declines into darkness 
                    by day there'll be clay in my hands. 
                    I may feel the clay in my hands.

    Fallen (the City of Night)

    Streets half-familiar that I once called home... 
    the breath of phantoms now fogs the light; 
    the skin I shuffled strangely outgrown. 
            Fallen, the city of night. 
    Lost geographics of mortar and lime 
    formed the arena for fight or flight; 
    all's buried under the leafstorm of time, 
            fallen in the city of night, 
            fallen the city of night. 
            All of the fences overblown, 
            all of the gardens overgrown, 
            all of the towers overthrown; 
            all that I knew shall be over, 
            become unknown 
            in the city of night. 
            I know that I've been here before, 
            I know that I've been here before, 
            but that was in another lifetime. 
    What once seemed blessed now feels accursed 
    with words the spendthrift burned by candlelight 
    but now this miser's mouth is pursed: 
            fallen, the city of night. 
            I know that I've been here before 
            but that was in another lifetime.

    Unready (fragment)


    Always is Next

    Ill met, ill starred, the sweat, the scars,
    	the back seat of the car, caught up in the sex,
    the ties that bind, his thoughts, her mind,
    	why something doesn't connect...
    the rush, the drool, his push, her pull,
    	the slushy gender pool, survive and protect.
    Ill met, the lips, the tongues that dart apart 
    	for whatever's next.
    Well, now, what then, they count to ten and sense
    	the current direct.
    This heat, this burn so sweet, they've learned
    	this stuff will never turn out as they expect.
    Well then, what now? Again they've found what somehow
    	still resurrects:
    a fit, a freeze, a pretty please,
    	drop down upon the knees and...whatever next
    Whatever's next, what ever's next.
    A clenching fist, a wrench, a twisted kiss
    	will salvage this wreck.
    The steam, the windows stream and in 
    	the back seat of the car they never suspect -
    out in the dark the Demiurge Avenger
    Ill met, the gun is cocked. Though once
    	they swore they'd be forever...always is next

    Unsteady (fragment)


    The Light Continent

    All the fields that you overflown are frozen, 
    they flow like glass down the frame in formlessness. 
    Only the fragile fluttering of you heart still marks you chosen, 
    chosen to dare, your face defiant of the featureless. 
                   Your face defies the featureless, 
                    You're facing the featureless. 
    A horizon of light blurs the boundaries of whiteness 
    as the distance is shimmered into timeless brightness now. 
    And the slow flooding tide is begun as it's ended - 
    the barometer dropping and the fog descended 
    down, down. 
    In the endless day, at this hour long-appointed, 
    subterranean humming and the compass unpointed, 
    the compass disjointed, the compass down. 
    Deep in the core the heart of ice forms, 
    a tempo of life like that of stalagmites, 
    a flood of the frozen, 
    the flux of the blood 
    aflame in antartic white. 
    Any marks that you made only scratched at the surface 
    only retinal image ties you into the circuit now. 
    In this empty expanse every shadow is shining 
    the indifference of nature: your significance tiny now. 
    Dive down. 
    All the fields &c. 
    Timeless the day, absorbing every wavelength of the light. 
    Frozen in place, our footfall on the ice. 
    What have our shadows meant 
    in the light continent?

    Lyrics and music by Peter Hammill

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Sergey Petrushanko, 1998-2023