In the dingy backrooms of beer-damp pubs, where the snakebite and black 

glowed in plastic cups, and the curling wraiths of cigarette smoke 

slowly choked us,

I’d held the blue volts of youth aloft. Triumphant, above the shaggy-haired

crowd too young to drink, already buzzed on Hooch 

and hormones, thudding 

in the dark of a mosh-pit trance, where, in the music video of our future,

we danced like Shannon Hoon in the California sun, 

and there was never any rain. 

Unlike Reading Festival in 1992, when the sag-bellied clouds 

burst like bombs on a wet summer party, and we skinned up by the M25 

in a portaloo. Our heroes 

were Lane Stayley, Chris Cornell, and Kurt Cobain – who I once saw wheeled onto stage 

in a hospital gown, resurrected on the water of a sodden set 

while the acolytes bowed below. 

That was the same gig I saw Richey James from the Manic Street Preachers 

blaze out the Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide is  Painless) before he parked his car 

by a bridge in Wales, and stepped off the Earth. 

Gods and monsters, the boys in bands with carefully ripped jeans, 

you were the pagan saints of grunge and gloom. And then the wreckage of a comet found glowing in a field.


Nicholas Hogg is the author of Show Me the Sky, nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and Tokyo, for which he received an Art Omi fellowship in New York. His short stories have won numerous prizes and been broadcast by the BBC. Winner of the 2021 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, and twice shortlisted for the Eric Gregory Award for young poets, his most recent work features in Ambit, Bath Magg, and The New European.

Image: Reading 1992, credit Berkshire Live – loads of great shots from the festival on there.