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Seat in the Kingdom

Hugh Foley

Seat in the Kingdom

‘That little boy – he doesn’t know what he’s singing about’

The Maroon leather of the barstool splits
And emits stuffing as if it was a piece of meat.
The half-moon of the bar harbours two men
Sat at either end, not talking.

They would tell stories. They would still not talk
Except to draw you in on the subject of
The war between the races.
The suicide of an acquaintance

Weighs strangely – months
After its happening. His bandmates’
Blues jam is now a single semitone movement
Bent away from the jaws theme tune.

The Pubco, says the landlord, leaves strict
Guides for wine promotions. The pitcher
Of water on the side holds one slice of cucumber
And the budget doesn’t stretch to one more pint.

The less you know about what was done
The debt that’s owed to half the world
And what you might have coming to you,
The better. True, the soothsayer

May harrumph and even offer to waive
His fee – announce the late
Arrival of the spring, but he
Will not provide a clearer grasp

Of what’s going on. The last loss
Was only minor from your point of view
And I would like again to stress
That whether you follow the reds

Or blues, or forlornly cheer on the gunners
Is of little moment. His death cannot be blamed
On the world, nor the world on his death.
It was always much the same. Lent

A little life by the medium of music,
The pub understandably doesn’t play
The kind he loved first, though Hardcore
Has its adherents even in the quiet afternoons.


A sound wave carries further depending on its amplitude.
The first Bad Brains I heard was Sailin’ on
The next, I think, was to Pay to Cum, the next one, Attitude
Big Takeover
was my favourite after Banned

In DC, the descending riff utterly detached from everything
I didn’t want to care about, that semitone slip
Expanding to fill the room and tell you of
The burnt offering that was America, ‘another Nazi scheme’

As they would have it, ‘a world doomed with its own
Interrogation’. I figured this applied to Britain too.
If this music were to suddenly come through, perhaps
At the right volume it might stand in for the resurrection

Of the dead. They play old soul and gospel songs instead,
And one of the silent men mouths along. The other doesn’t
And it has failed to reach the broadest possible audience,
Which was probably the Pubco’s ambition when they

Bound the bar staff to this playlist. Yet they are good ones,
Full of grit that redeems their own decorative function,
Just as the violent dancing and abuses of tonality I still hold
Dear are underpinned by earnest children, who, dead or otherwise,

Have nothing to teach about ignorance as bliss, though may know
Well the limits of their kingdom. For the remainder of the time,
I tap my fingers, hoping to make it through without another thought
Of any of the horde of things – awful or wonderful – going on outside.


Hugh Foley is reading for a DPhil in English at Exeter College, Oxford.