The Ballad of Tam Lin


Unlike the Wombles, the squatters at this bash
do not believe in direct action, have no political agenda beyond
free renting, leave their gutted pub at eight each day
for professional employment as lawyers, doctors,
analysts, toothbrushes hanging regularly
in the socketless bathroom. It has taken

hours to locate him, extract him
from a chav backroom in Brixton where
he’s floating darts, carousing, checking his hair
in the mirror, hours to persuade Tam Lin
to sing. Tam Lin. In his previous life,
a baggage handler, I plucked him ex nihilo,
gave him his ticket to ride.

It doesn’t pay, this squatters’ gig,
but good for street cred. Watery beer and poseurs,
any quiz night down your local. He
has given up collecting the virginity of maidens
I hear Tam telling a group of Swedish girls
whose passport stamps read
Must Frequent Every Indie Night In London.

Feedback-crackle. A few crap jokes.
He cuts a dashing figure, I’ll admit. Porkpie hat,
those elvish cheekbones,
opens with Queen of the Fairies.

Still, I’m the one to book the interviews, make sure
he’s snapped at dawn leaving some beautiful girl’s
apartment. A bit of a scuffle with the paparazzo.
‘Records don’t sell themselves,’ I tell him.
‘You’re selling my soul,’ he complains.

31st October, he’s attending an event,
black tie, champagne, the red carpet treatment
for rock ‘n’ roll youth. Best Newcomer is –
Tam Lin. Bulbs flash, my act arrives on stage
wearing nothing but a grin. I dial her cell.

Of course he knows the game’s up when she enters,
prize in hand, and dead in the water. He’s strumming
the chords to There’s A Place In Hell For Me And
My Friends as she leads him off into the dark.

Previously published in Magma.

Ian McLachlan‘s illustrated poetry pamphlet Confronting the Danger of Art, a collaboration with the artist Phil Cooper, was recently released by Sidekick Books. Ian’s “Taking the Long Way Home” is also in Reprint.

Object(s) to bring back to life: “Delphic Oracle; Les Cousins folk and blues club; canals.”