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The Hole Thing

Now, let us gather to imagine the future.
Here, in the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences
as it was, before Victoria laid the first stone.
Here, where the dead were annually raised,
implored, exhorted, ectoplasmically embraced,
Here, where Hiawatha musically wed,
and Os-Ke-Non-Ton sang the medicine man,
to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s once-loved score,
Here where the Jordan River was rebuilt
and Londoners were ritually dunked.

Here, everything’s occurred despite itself
and pugilists of every kind have fought.
Here, the bravura grapplers made us never wonder
if the match was fixed because it never mattered.
Here, where we used to come to crown Miss World
with revolution brewing in the streets,
Here, in the Suffragette Temple of Liberty,
from which the suffragettes were curtly banned,
expelled to join the boxers, rock stars, and the rest,
the poets who were turfed out by the police,
to wait until the world turned upside down,
the streets at sunset running red with Kensington Gore,
when all the undesirables return in glory to the stage
for one last bow.

Here, where we built the Temple of the Sun,
Here, where a black star saw my infant carried
in memorial,
at the centre of all things,
Here, where everything that happened happens still,
and every now is just a then away.

Here, where the Coming Race was celebrated,
And Vril, the magic life force, placed in pots,
virile and victorious, the science fiction fandom of their day
wore wings and smeared their Bovril in their beards.
Here, where fine acrobats have swung and leaped,
where giggling ruffled ghost-girls throng Door Six
while skullcapped Father Willis watches, with concern,
the Voice of Jupiter’s careful restoration,
and Conan Doyle was summoned in memorial,
his message from the Land of Mist lost forever, in the hubbub of the crowd.

Here every orchestra, and every land
has been exalted and exonerated,
Here, where we propagate the gospel in foreign parts
then establish for ourselves a League of Nations,
Here, while the Theremin is demonstrated,
its whine and hum a prelude to a thousand rubber monsters.
Here, where the Land of Hope and Glory
is extolled, and oh we promenade,
while Einstein begs us care for refugees,
Here, where we find the man who knew too much
inside his bag at the alchemical wedding,
beside the Largest Doll’s House in the World.

Here, where a composer in angel and devil drag once crept up on me,
where every night can brew something remarkable.
Here, where a hundred and fifty years
of hearts that opened, songs that broke us,
motor-shows and memories and all the ghosts,
and all the ghosts that sit beside you,
between you, inside your box, that ride
their ghostly stallions high above your heads
are here tonight.

We all are gathered here. The living and the dead of us:
in the Central Hall of the Arts and Sciences,
(to use its ghost name). It’s Royal Albert’s Hall,
and still it’s ours.
Where every then is just another now
Where everything that ever happened happens still,
Where, a hundred years from now,
a thousand years from now,
you and I and all the people who have ever loved,
and cheered and sung and bled and wept and wondered
taken tickets, swept, or rigged, or played our instruments
competed, won or lost, performed, invoked,
will be the phantoms.
                                    Listen, you can hear us: 
Hear now and then and when
and all the days to ever come
become a whole.

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Neil Gaiman

Neil’s poem “The Mushroom Hunters” was awarded the Rhysling Award for SF poetry, Best Long Poem 2018. His 2019 poem “What You Need to Be Warm” was made into an animated film to help refugees in 2020. He will one day collect all his poetry into a book.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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