In 2005 Alan Dunn turned one of my Ray and Julie poems into a billboard as part of Alan and Brigitte Jurack’s ongoing Ray and Julie project. This project began in 1995 inspired by graffiti in London Road. The sculptural pair of chairs Alan and Brigitte installed in the vacant lot next to the Lord Warden pub are still standing.
For more information on Ray and Julie look at Alan’s website at
RAY AND JULIE
The letters of the alphabet
Etched in her pale skin
Punctuated by blemishes,
Freckles, a bruise,
A heart hanging over the i in her name
Like a toy balloon on a stick.
Scratched into her arm
On that mad day at the fun fair,
And that wet, wild kiss
Down the alley round the back of the pub.
Carved into her arm with a knife,
4Ever and for longer than forever
Her skin stained with biro
His indelible name bleeding petrol blue
Into her skinny scarred arm.
All you’ll ever need to know
Is written right here in this wall,
Our two names scratched like wounds
Into plaster and brick.
Some archaeologist bloke’ll
Find it when we’re dead –
I’d have written it in neon,
Filled it up with the blood of my love.
All you’ll ever need to know
Is carved down this back alley,
In the back wall of this ale house,
Where we bled into each other’s mouths.
I always wrote your name on the covers
Of history books in school,
And now this is history –
Your name, my name, tattooed forever like scars.
There are no mad beasts
Escaping from zoos
Or jungles on my body,
No mermaids or dragons
Swimming through deep seas
There is only your name
And my name scrawled
In the wrecked skin of our love.
We fell into this having a drink
It was eternal love straight off
There was more to him than you’d think
Loads more than his forty fag cough
And more than the crumpled five pound note
And more than the crumpled sheets
And more than the sinking drunken boat
We sailed through rain lashed streets
We were mad in the gutter with booze and lust
And the stars were like broken teeth
When we wrote our names in the spilt dust
Of the moon we howled beneath.
Ripping bits off beer mats is
What keeps his head together
He’s two ciders short of a booze cruise
Two fags short of bronchitis
He just sits there hours on end
As empty as old crisp bags
Rattling like that tic tac box
He keeps to fool the breath test
Where the corners of his mouth meet
You can see the trace of lippy
From the time she kissed him deeply
At the bus stop by the offy
One more before the towels go on
Then a bag of chips from china
She’ll be home, be all blown over
Glued to that Emmerdale she videoed.
We sit out the back on patio chairs
With a spliff and a couple of cans,
Wide eyed, staring up above
At the flickering lights of heaven.
I don’t know the names of any of it
But Ray knows the shape of The Plough.
It’s the one shaped like a supermarket trolley,
He points it out with his fag.
The aurora borealis is this dream he has,
One day we’ll borrow a car and drive
North up the M6, takes two days
Stop off at some B & B.
And under the dark with a picnic
And a crate of little lagers
We’ll sit there in the middle of Scotland
Like we own it, like it was fucking Christmas.
The history of all our sleepless nights
Is written in the scrunched up fag packets
And condoms, bits of tissue and crumpled magazines
Beneath the bed we are always going to throw out.
The dust down there has fallen from our skin,
The tangled knots of dirty hair that drift
Across the lino like small tumbleweed,
Across the prairie of our bedroom in Liverpool.
Sometimes at night we cannot sleep and so
Just lie there with our favourite songs played low.
Ray likes a bit of Roy Orbison, it makes him cry,
I’ll have The Pixies any day, Black Francis howling.
Even tho we don’t like the same records
We’re the same, me and Ray, the same,
Could both lie there forever in our underwear
And watch the dustbowl of our room and wait for morning.
There was none of that drawing on envelopes
Of anchors or bluebirds of happiness,
No trying out with felt tip on my shoulder,
Of shapes ripped off from the Chinese alphabet.
I didn’t even go to the tattoo parlour
And look through his book of glories for ideas
I just stuck a darning needle in my skin
And filled his stabbed out name with fucking ink.
She bought a clock at a car boot sale
And hung it on the wall
He messed around with his old car
Round the back even though it was going nowhere.
He was telling her about the moon
And mans first footstep still there in the dust.
He knew all kinds about all kinds
And what he didn’t know he made up.
There’s a way of being married where
You don’t need rings and churches,
And it’s all about the clothes you wear,
And certain ways of saying certain words.
She sits there on the step and watches him,
He’s acting daft to make her laugh, she doesn’t laugh.
And when that broken clock finally ticks to life
That car’ll burn rubber, shoot red lights, heading north.
I was defrosting the fridge
He was watching the box
When the bird flew in.
The closest I’d ever been
To one was a budgie we once had that died.
He picked it up, so gentle
The small bird was in his hands
Its wings were moving
Against his fingers,
A sparrow with a leg bent, broken.
I’d never seen this side of him,
He soothed it with a whisper.
Then he put it in a Dolcis box
We had on top of the wardrobe,
Never throw them away, might one day be handy.
And there we were and it was lovely,
Me, him and this broken bird,
In our bedsit with the fridge drip dripping.
And that bloke who does the races
All excited about horses on the news.
In the same two chairs
At home, him in his underwear,
Me in my Snoopy pyjamas
In the same two chairs
In the pub, him chain smoking
Me ripping beer mats
In the same two chairs
In the street, but no one sees us
We are invisible.
We were dying for kids
But then we gave up
The moment passed
We sat in the caff
Messed with spoons
Spilling sugar sacks…
I couldn’t look
He couldn’t speak
We couldn’t bear…
I said it’s just…
He said it’s not…
It’s all a bit…unfair
Couldn’t agree on nothing
The things he liked
Was stuff that I’d avoid
I was mad on Marc Bolan
He was more into the Floyd
You forgot to defrost the fridge, you promised.
I’m going down the pub for the quiz.
You forgot my birthday again, like last year.
Yes I know you don’t believe in giving Hallmark your cash.
This is the way of it, the small things,
The nooks and crannies of ordinary days, making do,
With the broken toaster and the broken lock,
The broken light in the fridge, the broken switch.
The grumblings are what it’s all about, the sighs
And the lies. We wouldn’t still be here without the lies.
On her birthday she’ll dress up, look extra nice
And in the pub I’ll buy her a bottle of fizz.
We’ll get a bucket for the bottle, full of ice,
Sing Happy Birthday when they’ve done the quiz.
I’ll wear that suit and tie, the lot all pressed,
One year I wore a flower in the lapel.
The lads all laugh, I’m mutton like lamb dressed,
We always have a laugh, I give ‘em hell.
She gives me the eye eye, and that means watch,
Watch out for what you’ll get when we get back.
I’m thinking what I’ll get’s rat arsed on scotch,
She’s thinking more of action in the sack.
And down the alley I whip out the paint
And spray up ‘Ray & Julie’ on the brick.
I look at her, I’m bladdered, she feels faint,
But what I write’s romantic. ROMANTIC.
In London Road the shops are boarded up
But we still walk the length come rain or shine,
We do the same old pubs cos where you sups
What matters not the vintage of the wine.
It’s who you’re sitting next to after all,
There’s folk round here who get a bit above.
Us? We’re Ray and Julie walking tall
So don’t come telling us we’re not in love.
It’s written on our skin for all to see,
It’s written in the blood, the tears, the sweat,
It’s written in the dust on our TV,
It’s written like that so we don’t forget.