The Saturday Poem: Top of the Pops

A new poem by Ciaran Berry

Top of the Pops. Photograph: Phil Dent/Redferns

Top of the Pops. Photograph: Phil Dent/Redferns



There was either a message in a bottle
or a brown girl in the ring
when I squeezed my way between
Sister Áine and Sister Catherine
in the convent TV room.

Video may well have killed the radio star,
but love was still in the air,
for so sang John Paul Young.
We didn’t know then what might
be read into our favourite

exponent of the wobble board
tying his kangaroo down,
or what the glitter man might really
have meant when he asked
“D’you wanna be in my gang?”

As far as those Sisters of Mercy
were concerned, I was one
of their own, even if my father’s whereabouts
were unknown Sunday mornings,
even if I would pass up

the chance to carry in the myrrh
and frankincense. Taking
a few pointers from The Pointer Sisters
or a guy down the chip shop,
we watched as the second

would-be Welsh Elvis went weak
at the knees. “I’ll Be Satisfied”
was up to number nineteen
the same week “I Don’t Wanna Dance”
leapt from thirty to eleven.

We were either sitting by the rivers
of Babylon or we were walking
on the moon when Sister Pius
adjusted the rabbit ears, and the countdown
continued from ten to one.

Ciaran Berry grew up in Connemara and Donegal and currently lives in Hartford, Connecticut. His most recent collection is The Dead Zoo (The Gallery Press, 2013)