It happens on certain suburban side streets,
at a certain time of day – early afternoon,
or late lunchtime. The sky is unbroken,
cerulean; the air is still. It is quiet; so quiet.
I am the only visible human presence.
Somewhere, a bird timidly twitters; embarrassed
at breaking the uncanny silence. I look
along the street, which is, suddenly, endless;
just a hazy vanishing point shimmers
in the distance. And I am overcome
by the strangeness of it all.
How absurd, how accidental, for me to be
here; a stranger in a strange world.
And it is not unsettling, but benign, somehow,
that an infinitude of possibilities
must exist, here. That, in one of these
anonymous houses, someone is scribbling
a literary masterwork, or composing
a concerto of unheralded beauty,
or cracking the quantum code of the universe.
That the door to one of these houses will open,
and from it will emerge a woman whose eyes
meet mine, and our souls intertwine, as we
instantly divine our twinned destinies.
Then a van rumbles by. The silence, the spell
Is broken. Through the clear bay window
of the next house along I see a man,
sitting, motionless. He is gazing, blankly,
at his television screen.
My favourite TV series, when I was growing up in the sixties, was definitely “The Avengers”. I’m talking about the original Avengers, with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as special agents John Steed and Emma Peel. The storylines were always exciting, but often bizarre, with surreal overtones. The dialogue – particularly between the two main protagonists – was literate and laced with witty bon mots. Emma Peel was, for me, the ultimate heroine – poised, cool, highly-intelligent, witty, as well as physically gorgeous, with raven-dark hair. I instantly fell in love.
A recurrent scenario was for Steed and Emma to be isolated, solitary figures in a strangely deserted landscape – either in a rustic country village, or in the middle of a normally busy city. Whenever this occurred, with strangely unsettling background music, I always found myself particularly enthralled. There was an underlying sense of suspense and dislocation; the feeling that literally anything could happen.
I occasionally find myself walking along quiet, suburban side-streets at a time of day – late-morning or early-afternoon – when the silence and lack of activity suddenly bring me to a halt. I look around, realize that I am the only visible person around, and immediately I get the same sense of strangeness and underlying excitement that I used to feel watching “The Avengers” all those years ago. This is, essentially, what I was trying to capture in my poem “Uncanny”.