valediction for a valve radio

  • after the piano, the valve radio was the second most-important audio icon in my childhood home. though the youngest of three boys, i was the first to discover ‘Caroline’ pirate radio, in the early 60’s off-shore broadcasting.

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    the old radio knob grasped, turned right,
    mysterious, that emerald lotus-like light
    lit-up, a hum emerged, energy slowly
    unlocked – this moment almost holy;
    my devotion finely focussed, solely;
    on Tintawn carpet, I kneeled in adoration,
    thrilled with discovery of each new station,
    herringboned stigmata impressed bare knees
    – mesmerised by pop’s sweet melodies.

    impressionable, i pressed adolescent ear
    against loudspeaker latticed fabric, to hear
    BBC radio plummy accents, safe and assured,
    or chirpy pirate DJs, broadcasting from moored
    ships tossed about on high seas, such drama lured
    audio-adventures, this pre-teen “pop picker”
    peered through grille, saw valves glow and flicker,
    radio-reception in cycles, faded then flared,
    those sixties songs had my soul well-snared.

    later, a leatherette-covered portable PYE radio
    accompanied me everywhere, an audio halo
    that helped me escape reality; my hippy-head
    filled with fantasy, wandering Quaker co-ed
    boarding school, kissing girls in dark sheds,
    earning multiple stints in Saturday detention;
    summed up by French master’s acerbic mention:
    “in classroom, Louis can frequently be found
    with his transistor… aimlessly hanging around”.

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