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14 October 2020

The NS Poem: The Death of Tara Browne (1945-66)

A new poem by Hugo Williams. 

By Hugo Williams

“He blew his mind out in a car…”
The Beatles, “A Day in the Life”

London had barely started
when you blew into town
with your charmed existence,
your cursed Lotus Elan.
You asked me once if I wanted to drive
and we changed places for a moment.
“Come on, Hugo, put your foot down!”
I touched the accelerator
and the thing took off like a bird
down the Kings Road.
I don’t know where we were going
because I got out and walked.

You entered the 1964
Mercantile Credit Trophy, Formula Three,
but officials found fault
with your windscreen,
which wasn’t laminated.
You knocked it through with your elbow
and turned your jacket back to front
to counter the headwind.
You won by three seconds,
“The sensation of the meeting” (Autosport)
It was the first lap
of a race to oblivion.

For a couple of golden years
while Help gave way to Revolver,
life got in the way.
The world dished out its favours
to a lucky few
who could dance all night
and sleep it off next day.
You danced on the accelerator.
You didn’t notice that the lights had changed,
but spun the car around
to protect your girlfriend
and went to meet the music on your own.

Hugo Williams won the TS Eliot Prize in 1999 for Billy’s Rain. His most recent collection is Lines Off (Faber & Faber).

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This article appears in the 14 Oct 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Can Joe Biden save America?