At the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eighth months of the final year of the millennium, darkness fell. And they left their homes and their places of work to congregate on the beaches and the sea and on the hillsides surrounding the city. And for those two minutes the roads were still and business all along the south coast was suspended, even in advertising they left their Powerpoint pitches to gaze up at the wondrous spectacle. But there was much disappointment throughout the land. Because in the place where there was totality the sky was thick with clouds and in the place where the sun shone there was a partial eclipse, which meant only a very few saw Bailey’s beads and the corona and diamond ring, talk of which had excited many before the event. On the beach at Brighton were gathered a multitude with their pinhole cameras and special glasses and they experienced not complete darkness but a strange and eerie light, the like of which they had never known. It was cold. A hush fell over the crowd as the sky darkened. Even the mobile phone ringtones were silent. Even the birds were still and then, as the sun moved from behind the moon, the pigeons and herring gulls burst forth in song, they circled over the Miss Haversham skeleton of the West Pier and dove through the broken windows of its concert hall. And the crowds left the beach slowly for they had been moved by nature’s display and were reluctant to return to their keyboards and faxes, their to-do lists. Even though they had set their videos and knew they would get a better view on TV.
Today's selection comes from Lorna Thorpe's second collection, Sweet Torture of Breathing (Arc, 2011). Thorpe was born in Brighton, where she lived for most of her life before moving to Cornwall in 2011. She has worked as a tour operator, social worker and barmaid. Her first pamphlet, Dancing to Motown (Pighog, 2005), was a Poetry book Society pamphlet choice, and her first full collection, A Ghost in My House, was published by Arc in 2008. Thorpe presently works as a freelance writer and has published features in The Guardian. You can learn more about Thorpe and her work on her blog.