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.
About this poem
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.
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.
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.