‘Long Ride’

by James Massiah

We asked friend of Selfridges James Massiah to create a poem for these uncertain times.

Watch him perform it from his home and discover the story behind the work below.

What power does poetry hold at a time like this?

 

It depends how good the particular poem is! Though I suppose everything has its own value, relative to who’s reading or hearing it. For me, for now, it’s a poem like Roger McGough’s ‘Take Comfort’ or Allen Ginsberg’s ‘In Death, Cannot Reach What Is Most Near’.

 

How did you begin to conceptualise ‘Long Ride’ and bring together all these images?

 

The title came last, but it’s a reference to one of my favourite tracks of the same name by Young Nudy and Pi’erre Bourne. I also thought the ‘one exercise a day’ thing was quite something, so I wanted to highlight that and bring my passion for cycling and lust for my bike into the mix. The poem itself, though turned over relatively quickly, still took some time to come together. I was so sure that I didn’t want it to be cheesy or schmaltzy or overly sentimental, but I wanted it to be sensitive to the times and heartwarming in some way. Humour often does the trick for me – some irreverence, some proximity to the lower chakras – but then I also wanted it not to stray into farce, so a fine balance had to be met. I felt like people would connect with different elements of it; I tried to avoid geographical specificity because I know how broad the audience is, but, even still, there are little clues and dog whistles in there – for those who are hip to what I’m on about – that offer another level of familiarity and closeness – which is what I really want the poem to do.


That is what I feel with good poems: I feel like (at risk of sounding schmaltzy) I’m there, together with the reader. In thought and philosophy and feeling, if not in the flesh.

What positive things do you see coming out of this difficult situation?

 

Hard to say right now. I’m a determinist, and for some people reading this that’s all they’ll need to know about me and my thoughts on the subject. So as not to be too terse, I shall say that so many of my rainy days have come at once, and while there is so much that is out of my, and our, control, I think I’ve learnt and am learning to value what I have – and maybe, more specifically, who I have.

 

What are you most looking forward to when this over?

 

As much as my parents can’t wait to go back to church, I can’t wait to go back to The Haggerston – but only after I’ve been to the barbers.  

Inspired by James' work? Here are the tools to get you writing

‘Long Ride’ by James Massiah

 

Won't see you for a little while
And though I love your mother's child
I think we’ll have to be away
For more than just a couple days
I think we’ll have to be apart
Until this thing has come to pass
That day will be a wicked day
But until then, be safe
And when online be kind
And then just send me any memes
Gifs and MP3s
And nudes
And don’t just watch the news
Let’s flix the net and not forget
To keep up with the show
We’re keeping up appearances
Still fitting in our fit pics
All dressed up with nowhere to go
We’re mad men now you know
Not sure which way is up or down
Or which damn day it is
I’m going back in time
In mind to summers as a kid
Pre long rides on my specialised
And one-exercise quotas
When I was quoting preachers and in service sang soprano
Back home it was all Slimzee sets
And running round outside
I’ve now got time to find those old cassettes
of all that old-school grime 'cause I’m

Inside for the foreseeable
And still can’t wait to see you
Until then my mother prays
As a youth we studied Hebrew
And this takes me back to good old days
Of gospel songs
Before Klein remixed them and made them spicy and raw

Hope she prays the angel passes over us
The red is on the door
Like Belshazzar
I know the writings there upon wall
I've broke the law and done it proud from London town to Stroud

Everything feels different now and nothing's quite the same

Shotters plotting how to drop their dots with police on patrol

Families worried sick about the old
Class divide more clearer now
How do we cut the dough
How do we keep from panicking
With press peddling woe
On House Party with your woes
Listening to stay flo
In a string vest
Practising your Vogue
For when the clubs unclose
And shops so you can cop new shoes
And feel fresh in your clothes
I’ve been inside for what feels like aeons

But still feel cute
Blocking out the fake news
And the bad mind views
Not pressuring myself to write or produce
Just chill and keep in touch with yous

And look out for the neighbours

They be looking out for us

Holding parking spots and parcels

When we were out that day

Playing Dillinger on speakers

Bluetooth under blue sky
On green grass with some pick-me-ups

Pollen in my nose
Must have pollen in my eyes
And think that’s why I feel to cry

Thinking of the ones I know
Hoping no one has to go
I know someone that got the text
They might be stuck till June
I’ll never take for granted
All my moments spent with you. 

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