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Möbius Strip
Bloody Sunrise
The Wreckers
Song of the Song
Poem first read...

1. Clock
Words by William Shakespeare, Selected by Neil Gaiman


Sonnet 12: When I do count the clock that tells the time 
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
  And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
  Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

2. Möbius Strip 
Words by Neil Gaiman


My grandfather took a strip of paper. Do you want to see something magic, he asked. I nodded.

Look, he said. One side. Two sides. But if I give it a twist before I glue it, it only has one side.

I knew that was impossible. I took a pen and traced along it, and wound up, somehow, back where I began.

Only one side, he said. What do you think will happen if I cut it into two, along the middle of the strip?

Two loops? I said.

He showed me how to cut, and I cut along the strip. It opened into one enormous loop. Then made another strip: this time, he twisted it twice before he glued it. I cut. Now there were two loops all right, but they were linked, connected, one through the other one. 

Magic, I said.

That's right, he said, magic. It's all in the twist. It's the twist that brings you back where you started.

And I'm walking along the strip now, thinking that there are two sides to every question, two sides to every coin. That the world is what I think it is, and that memory plays you straight and nothing's tricky.

And I'm walking on. 

I build a place, and I plan my life, and every time I plan, the world twists, not much, just a half-turn from where I thought I'd be, and the plans are somehow on the other side of where I wanted to turn up.

And when I try to cut someone out of my life, I discover we’re still linked. 

There's back, and there's forward when I start out, but the further forward I go, I’m no further away from back. I'm a child, and I'm an adult, and I'm a parent and I'm a grandfather, and in the end, I’m returning to a place I remember.

When we forget, when we forget everything, forget the past as we forget the future, then the last twist takes us back, and so I'm showing a small child how to make a Möbius strip. I take the paper, and I give it half a twist before I glue it down.

I'm old now. And I'm young.  I'm somewhere on the strip, we all are, walking the sign of infinity. Into the darkness. And I'm looking for signs of life in my memory, reflected in the mirror. 

I'm a Möbius strip. We all are.

We only ever see one face. It's the twist that brings you back where you started. 

3. Bloody Sunrise 
Words by Neil Gaiman

Every night when I crawl out of my grave
Looking for someone to meet, some way that we’ll misbehave
Every night when I go out on the prowl
And then I fly through the night with the bats and the owls
Every time I meet somebody, I think you might be the one
I’ve been on my own for too long
When I pull them closer to me

Bloody sunrise comes again leaves me hungry and alone, every time
Bloody sunrise comes again and I’m nowhere to be found, every time
And you’re a memory and gone, something else that I can blame on bloody sunrise

Every night I put on my smartest threads 
And I go into the town and I don’t even look dead
Every night I smile and I say ‘hi’ 
And no one ever smiles back and if I could I’d just die
But when I’m lucky I do get lucky and I think you might be the one
Even though the time is flying when it gets to the time of dying

Bloody sunrise comes again leaves me hungry and alone, every time
Bloody sunrise comes again and I’m nowhere to be found, every time
And you’re a memory and gone, something else that I can blame on bloody sunrise
And you’re a memory and gone, something else that I can blame on bloody sunrise

4. The Wreckers 
Words by Neil Gaiman


Huge moments of surprise that leave you wrecked.

The wreckers on the old black Cornish rocks
(when there was no moonlight, and hard storms
pushed the waves and winds to treachery)
would light their lamps to lure the ships ashore
and ships, who thought that they were safe and lights
were there to guide them home, would run aground,
all hands lost and stolen by the cold sea.

To share the good times is to share the bad times.
To share the joy in the fine-wine-times
is to drink the wine down to the bottom of the glass
where things are bitter
I will not ask for any glass to pass from me.
There are no accidents. (Or possibly there are.
But things happen because of their nature
and there is no arguing with nature
for she is wise and innocent and cruel
and rage and hurt and pain and blood are hers.)
So we build rituals of mourning and acceptance
to walk us through the nights of tears and pain.

(But nature lost a daughter, who remains
six seeds of pomegranate dead today.)
Three things I send you. First I send these words
that you may use them as a pool of ink
to see yourself reflected, or see another in,
to see far-away things, so you do not forget to dream.

And then I send you pain, a small pain,
to whisper to your pain and keep it company.

And last I send a smile, that it might serve you well
and you may hold it in a time when smiles are scarce.

Remembering the moonlight on the water.

5. Song of the Song 
Words by Neil Gaiman


There’s a song that they sing
at the edge of the world
about leaders and armies
with banners unfurled
and the blood of the brave
on the glittering sand
while the mountaintops ring
to the crash of the band
and they sing it a lot.
It might even be true.
But it’s not.
Listen, you…

There’s a boy loves a girl,
she has skin fair as milk
she has breasts like ripe apples
and lips soft as silk,
so he sings of such stuff,
how he’ll love her for aye
though he’s ragged and rough
and he sleeps in the hay.
For love makes no mistakes.
It is perfect and clean.
She is gone when he wakes,
and I mean…

You can never trust a song
Whatever you've heard
Songs are just sweet illusions
made of words

Everybody loves a song
So reach for the skies
Songs will just fool and trap you
made of lies 

On each side of the Border
wherever you stand 
in these days of disorder
you must understand
that some songs are convincing,
persuasive and smart,
so in moments they’re mincing
away with your heart,
like songs do. They inspire,
but beware, because song
(like desire)
can go wrong…

So heed my example
I was once a young ditty
on all sorts of lips
as folk wandered this city
but now I’m forgotten,
replaced by new strains
while my rhyme scheme is rotten
and little remains.
But I told them the truth
for a while. So beware
of a song
sung when nobody’s there.

You can never trust a song
Whatever you've heard
Songs are just sweet illusions
made of words

Everybody loves a song
So reach for the skies
Songs will just fool and trap you
made of lies
made of words
made of lies

6. Credo
Words by Neil Gaiman


I believe that it is difficult to kill an idea, because ideas are invisible and contagious, and they move fast.

I believe that you can set your own ideas against ideas you dislike. That you should be free to argue, explain, clarify, debate, offend, insult, rage, mock, sing, dramatise and deny.

I do not believe that burning, murdering, exploding people, smashing their heads with rocks (to let the bad ideas out), drowning them or even defeating them will work to contain ideas you do not like. Ideas spring up where you do not expect them, like weeds, and are as difficult to control.

I believe that repressing ideas spreads ideas.

I believe that people and books and newspapers are containers for ideas, but that burning the people who hold the ideas will be as unsuccessful as firebombing the newspaper archives. It is already too late. It is always too late. The ideas are already out, hiding behind people’s eyes, waiting in their thoughts. They can be whispered. They can be written on walls in the dead of night. They can be drawn.

I believe that ideas do not have to be correct to exist.

I believe you have every right to be perfectly certain that images of god or prophet or human that you revere are sacred and undefilable, just as I have the right to be certain of the sacredness of speech, of the sanctity of the right to mock, comment, to argue and to utter.

I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things. I believe your remedy for that should be to argue with me or to ignore me, and that I should have the same remedy for the wrong things that you think.

I believe that you have the absolute right to think things that I find offensive, stupid, preposterous or dangerous, and that you have the right to speak, write, or distribute these things, and that I do not have the right to kill you, maim you, hurt you, or take away your liberty or property because I find your ideas threatening or insulting or downright disgusting. You probably think some of my ideas are pretty vile, too.
I believe that in the battle between guns and ideas, ideas will, eventually, win.
Because the ideas are invisible, and they linger, and, sometimes, they can even be true.

Eppur si muove: and yet it moves.

8. Poem first read on January 26th 2011 at the Sydney Opera House
Words by Neil Gaiman


We killed them all when we came here.
The people came and burned their land
The forests where they used to feed
We burned the trees that gave them shade
And burned to bush, to scrub, to heath
We made it easier to hunt.
We changed the land, and they were gone.
Today our beasts and dreams are small
As species fall to time and us
But back before the black folk came
Before the white folk’s fleet arrived
Before we built our cities here
Before the casual genocide,
This was the land where nightmares loped
And hopped and ran and crawled and slid.
And then we did the things we did,
And thus we died the things we died.
We have not seen Diprotodon
A wombat bigger than a room
Or run from Dromornithidae
Gigantic demon ducks of doom
All motor legs and ripping beaks
A flock of geese from hell’s dark maw
We’ve lost carnivorous kangaroo
A bouncy furrier T Rex
And Thylacoleo Carnifex
the rat-king-devil-lion-thing
the dropbear fantasy made flesh.
Quinkana, the land crocodile
Five metres long and fast as fright
Wonambi, the enormous snake
Who waited by the water-holes
and took the ones who came to drink
who were not watchful, clever, bright.
Our Thylacines were tiger-wolves
until we drove them off the map
Then Megalania: seven meters
of venomous enormous lizard...
and more, and more. The ones whose bones
we’ve never seen. The megafauna haunt our dreams.
This was their land before mankind
Just fifty thousand years ago.
Time is a beast that eats and eats
gives nothing back but ash and bones
And one day someone else will come
to excavate a heap of stones
And wonder, What were people like?
Their teeth weren’t sharp. Their feet were slow.
They walked Australia long ago
before Time took them into tales
We’re transients. The land remains.
Until its outlines wash away.
While night falls down like dropbears don’t
to swallow up Australia Day.

9. The Problem with Saints
Words by Neil Gaiman


I wish that Joan of Arc wouldn't hang around the park
Pronouncing that she won't get burned again
Her armour's very shiny and her message is divine
But I wish she'd take a day off now and then
She said it clears your head when you come back from the dead
With your sword as sharp as anything that cuts
And to prove it she bisected three young tourists from Utrecht
Which rapidly displayed a lot of guts

She says we need to
Raise a brand-new army
And the flag of France
So proudly she unfurled
And the people that
She hated will be neatly bifurcated
And the British will
No longer rule the world

She says it was a mistake to let them burn her at the stake
And she learned a lesson back there in the flames
So she's going to kill the queen and then she'll rescue Old Orleans
And it's really hard to hang around with saints
I think I ought to tell her that the English left in failure
And they don't go back to France except on hols
But I saw her vivisect a man who wanted to correct her
And the playground soon resembled Grand Guignol

She says we need to
Raise a brand-new army
And she marched us
Round until we couldn't stand
She says the nation
She abhors will soon be writhing on the floor
And the British will
No longer rule her land

And she's waiting for the dauphin who will come across the ocean
And knows that God agrees with her complaints
So I'm hoping she'll ignore my English accent in her war
'Cause it's really hard to hang around with saints

She says we need to
Raise a brand-new army
And the flag of France
So proudly she unfurled
And the people that
She hated will be neatly bifurcated
And the British will
No longer rule
The British will no longer rule
The British will no longer rule the


10. In Transit (for Arthur Eddington)
Words by Neil Gaiman 

1. To find the many in the one
he sweated under foreign skies
to see the stars behind the sun.
So space and time were now undone
reality was undisguised.
We found the many in the one.
We stare at photographs but none
could show the mind behind the eyes.
He saw the stars behind the sun.
Not with a sword, or knife, or gun,
a simple picture severed ties.
He found the many in the one.
Light bends around us. So we run,
as gravity reclassifies
the stars we saw behind the sun.
To see the world beyond the skies,
to touch the mind behind the eyes,
To find the many in the one
he showed us stars behind the sun.
2. Unfucked, or anyway retiring,
in the awkward sense. Retirement will never be an option.
The gruff gentleman with the cap who understands
what the numbers mean
remembers a bicycle ride when he was younger.
The smoke of the cigarettes he does not smoke kick at his lungs
mixing with the buzz of the booze he doesn’t ever drink
a convivial pint after the ride into the country gave him such a thirst.
And afterwards they lay on their back in the stubble
staring up at the stars. Together. All the stars
Countable as the words in a Bible,
countable as the hairs on his friend’s head,
all accountable, and that is why they never truly touched.
The shadow of prison or disgrace perhaps moving between them
like the shadow of an eclipse.
And, in another life, at another time,
to see the stars behind the sun,
he takes his photographs
fighting the cloud cover. Becoming
the thing that happened in Principe
when he proved that the German was right,
that light had weight,
half a year after the Armistice.
A populariser, but not courting popularity.
Somewhen a boy is counting stars.
Somewhen a man is photographing light.
Somewhen his finger strokes the stubble on another’s cheek,
and for a moment everything is relative.
11. ‎Signs of a Life 
Words by Neil Gaiman


And in the end there's just an dented pillow where a head lay
And in the end you reach an arm out but there's no-one closer
And in the end there's just an empty pillow not a person
and then it's over so there's nothing just a vacant pillow

All the dreams
All the songs
All the words

All the books
All the kids
All the jokes
All the jokes

Goodnight face
Goodbye clock
Farewell words
Farewell words

You can't just lie there. 
There are things to do, you silly person
And people still living inside your head.
Your cold head. 

You know how this goes, you used to say to me,

Now, look, you'd say. Think about it.
You'd tell me. It's so obvious. 
You know how this one goes.

And all the songs you would have sung that never will be heard now.
And all the ways you walked that never will be walked in future.
And all the things we did we’ll never do again together.
And all the memories of pain and joy that only we shared.
I am custodian, but all our words are writ on water.
We are custodians, but all our words are writ on water.

You aren't waiting for me. It doesn't work like that.
Make your own music, you said. It's time to 
Go on alone.

You can't be dead. You can't. 
Get up. You have to work now.
Now that they’ve come to take you away.
Wash you and wind you and take you away.

You know how this one goes.

Can you remember what a pillow was?
Do you remember how it felt to feel?
Goodnight face. 
Goodbye breath.
Farewell words
No more time
No more clock

Let it dissolve
like a dent 
on a pillow
or breath
on a window
that fades

And then we turn and there's nobody left to turn and nothing
There's no body 
Just signs of a life
that was spent


The Problem with Saints
In Transit
Signs of a Life
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