THE BALLAD OF RAY AND JULIE

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

http://www.alandunn67.co.uk

the ballad of ray + julie, 2005
Jeff Young
            
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RAY AND JULIE

 

1

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

 

Julie

 

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.

 

Ray

 

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.

 

*

 

2

 

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.

 

*

 

3

 

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.

 

*

 

4

 

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.

 

*

 

 

5

 

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.

 

*

 

6

 

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.

 

*

 

 

7

 

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.

 

*

 

8

 

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.

 

*

 

 

9

 

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.

 

*

 

10

 

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.

 

*

 

11

 

Sitting forever

In the same two chairs

At home, him in his underwear,

Me in my Snoopy pyjamas

 

Sitting forever

In the same two chairs

In the pub, him chain smoking

Me ripping beer mats

 

Sitting forever

In the same two chairs

In the street, but no one sees us

We are invisible.

 

*

 

12

 

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

 

For instance

I was mad on Marc Bolan

He was more into the Floyd

 

 

*

 

 

13

 

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.

 

*

 

14

 

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.

 

*

 

 

15

 

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.

 

Ray

 

Julie

 

Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Young

June 2005

 

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