The Break from Simplicity
The world could show nothing to me.
‘God Only Knows’, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
Contemplate an unkempt young songwriter, intractable thatch
of hair, caressing a piano, the cadence of careless care,
jointed digits conducting the orchestra of his wild imagination.
Reflect on the inventive invective of his bullying father,
the tragedy of his brothers, the destructive dominance
of his psychologist.
Breathe in, ruminate on his attempts to take flight
from the simplicity of surf music, the nervous breakdown
in seclusion as he applies and adapts
his prodigious skill to perfect his choral fantasy,
to engineer innovative recording techniques,
the ambiguous tonal centre of layered harmonies.
And now you have grasped the way he triumphed
over mental illness and narcotic abuse
to earn the plaudits of his rivals,
the admiration of John, the call from Paul.
Editor’s note: The 1966 album ‘Pet Sounds’, containing ‘God Only Knows’, was billed by RollingStone Magazine as Brian Wilson’s ‘wildly ambitious pop masterpiece’, and is considered to be one of the most influential albums of 20th-century contemporary music.
David Atkinson is a Sydney-based poet whose poems have been published widely in Australia, the US and UK. Recent awards have included second prize in the Tom Collins National Poetry Prize, and first prize in the Scribes Writers Poetry Awards. His collections ‘The Ablation of Time’ and ‘Strands and Ripples’ were published by Adelaide’s Ginninderra Press in 2018 and this year.