Love and Satellites
30th Jan 2014
On Sunday 12th January my elder sister Clare married her wonderful partner Olga in a beautiful ceremony full of laughter, tears, poetry and music. They asked me to write and perform a song for the ceremony. I’ve not written a song as a commission for a particular occassion before, let alone one that I had such a strong emotional investment in. I was utterly terrifed.
I decided to work on a small idea I’d had in my mind for a kind of lullaby, a lullaby about satellites. The idea first came to me because my very funny younger sister Lottie, when pregnant, has always named her unborn foetuses after space telescopes. First there was Hubble, who was sadly lost. But then came Webb who nine months later became my gorgeous nephew Sullivan and then there was the particularly wonderfully named Euclid Planck, who became my fabulous niece Matilda. I liked the idea of these hopeful, remote creations, these entities of love launched into being, so incredibly close and yet so separate. It seemed to me to be a metaphor for the commitment of marriage as well.
My favourite definition of romantic love comes from the poet Elizabeth Jennings who describes it as being “posessed by disposession”. That idea is also found in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Helena says “and I have found Demetrius like a jewel, mine own and yet not mine own,” a line my husband sent to me early on in our relationship and one I paraphrase in the song. Extra boffin points go to people who can spot the other Shakespeare quote.
I was also thinking a lot about this short film, Overview, which talks about the spiritual effect of seeing the earth from space. I thought about how my sister and her wife are both very much fully formed worlds in their own right, having weathered many seasons of joy and loss before having found each other. I wanted to pay tribute to that.
This was a difficult song to write mostly because it was for my most loved ones and it meant so much to me to get it right. I also had to try hard not to think about the fact that the great poet Tony Harrison (a friend of my sister’s) was going to be present at the wedding. Every time I remembered he'd be there all my lyrics suddenly looked hideously Hallmark.
But all went well in the end (Tony liked it!) and several people have asked if I can post the lyrics. So here they are. I’m planning to record it very soon so you can all hear the complete song with all it’s attendant bleeps and intergalactic cello action.
As a separate note, just after the wedding a dear friend, who is gay, posted this message to my sister’s Facebook. If you’re in any doubt as to why gay marriage is important then this should clear it up:
Something I didn't expect was to experience/feel hope, rather egocentrically, for myself. It's been a long time since I felt that. I'm still trying to put my finger on exactly what happened.
I guess it's because the old credence of 'this is not allowed for me' is finally shifting, (after having chipped away at this particular block for years) and whilst I know and love many married gay people, I've never seen the actual ceremony itself.
At so many weddings I have attended before, the old internal voice would whisper that 'this is wonderful but it is not for me' and I'd allow the sadness to wash over me, reliving the miserable internal monologue of my adolescence. Hopefully, those old neurons are now dying, nay burning, away and being replaced by new ones, transfiguring the past, reshaping the present and opening up the future.
Subtle shiftings and wonderful times await us all.
We keep launching satellites
Leaps of faith and grand delusion
Always near yet far from home
Always here and always gone
And once you were my satellite
My leap of faith, my grand delusion
In orbits dark beyond the sun
Never knowing you could be the one
But we are the dust of stars
The universe is ours my love
This speck of time our key
Our window on eternity
And from here I see...
All your days of light and dark
I see you, see you and your beautiful heart
And all your deserts, all your seas
That crossing brought you to your knees
And all the tides for good or ill
That broke your shores, that stain you still
And all the love mad arts of men
That sent you to the mind bright boundless firmament
and brought you back into my arms again
And we’re still launching satellites
Just leaps of faith and grand delusion
Voyages only begun
For lands that can’t be conquered and wars that can’t be won
So let me be your satellite
Your leap of faith, your grand delusion
Your world to watch the gaze of mine
And look upon itself in space and time
And all eyes else dead coals
The universe grows cold my love
The void we can’t ignore
Will ask what we did it all for
And I will say...
For all your days of light dark
For you, for you and your beautiful heart
And for all your deserts, all your seas
That crossing brought me to my knees
And for all your frailty, all your might
Your blaze of morning, your rush of night
And for all your forests felled in pain
That sprang new roots to rise again
For you are found like a precious stone
Mine own and yet not mine own
So for all such jewels we held in awe
And for all the ones we lost before
And for all your tides for good or ill
That broke my shores, that stain me still
And for all the love mad arts of men
That sent me to the mind bright boundless firmament
and brought me back into your arms again