Poem for Roy Batty

Poem for Roy Batty
Whenever neon trickles down
to meet a city drain,
I think of you on some wet roof,
a cobbled son of men – 

the thorned corona of your hair
that crowns a failing sun,
the closing lotus of your hand,
its nail to pin the flown;

and when the blue sky beckons through
a fissure in the rain,
you haunt the hurt leak of my pulse – 
beat gone, beat gone, beat gone.
Kona Macphee

from What Long Miles (Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2013)

Reproduced by permission of the author.
Kona Macphee

Kona Macphee is a poet and writer and a freelance media producer, specialising in podcasts, films, and web development.

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About Poem for Roy Batty

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2013. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2013 was David Robinson.

Editor’s comment:

Does this poem work even if you have never seen Rutger Hauer, as replicant Roy Batty, deliver his ‘Tears in the Rain’ soliloquy – surely one of the best in cinema – in Blade Runner? Not perhaps as strongly – though it would still support a reading of how everyday life contains so many reminders of loss or hope, whether rainwater trickling into a city drain or a hint of blue sky in rainclouds. The last two lines contain the core of the poem, and have a power all of their own: that a reminder of another’s death diminishes us, heartbeat by weakened heartbeat.

Author's note:

More than thirty years on, Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner remains one of my favourite movies. I love its noirish, neon-rainy atmosphere; its inspired choice of artfully-decaying urban locations; its distinctively-80s-yet-timeless musical score by Vangelis.

My favourite thing about Blade Runner, though, is the character of Roy Batty, played with chilly aplomb by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. Batty is a human-looking android, escaped from offworld slavery, whom the film's hero must kill (or ‘retire’, as the euphemism goes.) Paradoxically, through Batty's struggles with his own mortality, a non-human machine actually comes to embody Everyman.