Four poems from God Save My Queen II
One joy one rock one fight one song one noun one shirt one it one shove one skin one him one breath one beard one cat one purr one goose one step one Concorde one Viking one Hickman one bloodstream one cancer one monkey one German.
One chest steam one hairline one beef stew one buck tooth one mustache one bedside one mansion one front gate one year off one jumpsuit one cokehead one koi pond one dance move one joyride one hand held one rota one gay plague.
One anthem one godsend one gasp one black bag one vision.
Who Wants To Live Forever
July 1986. Before Queen’s concert at Budapest’s Nepstadion, Freddie hosts Roger’s 37th birthday in his presidential suite. A flaming cake with drummer boy figurine on top. Laughs, claps. [VO:] And interview-shy Mercury faces the Hungarian cameras.
Reporter: “So is this zee beginning of your friendship weez Budapest? Weel eet last long—as long as Queen weel last?” Freddie stops smiling, mumbles to Phoebe off-mike, sways his champagne flute. He doesn’t want to talk. He points his cigarette.
“If I’m still alive, I will come back.” Freddie trips over cables, returns to the party.
In the Live at Wembley Stadium DVD from 1986, Freddie mentions onstage that, contrary to reports, “a certain band called Queen” is not breaking up. “They’re talking outta here,” he says, pointing to his ass. “We’ll be together until we fucking well die.”
In the DVD commentary from 2003, Brian says there was another level to what he was saying that’s all too clear now. This dying bit was going to happen sooner rather than later. How did he keep his secret so long? Five years?
The colors of Freddie’s stage outfit pop onstage, utterly nonsexual for the first time.
Made In Heaven
So many debates over Freddie’s estate. According to David Minns and David Evans, it was £8,649,940, excluding publishing money. That was supposedly less than expected. And then there was Freddie’s house, the people in it.
Jim Hutton, Joe Fanelli, and “Phoebe” Freestone, the working rota of Freddie’s caretakers in his last years, were all evicted from Garden Lodge three months after the funeral to make way for Mary Austin, Freddie’s former girlfriend, as sole occupant.
“Never had one garden seen so much dying.”
Note: The last line comes from a passage in a 1997 biography of Freddie Mercury. “It was a lovely, bright sunny day [in 1979] and the garden shrubs, including the camellia bushes, were in full bloom. Kenny [Everett] … shot mad zany footage of us, acting out a silly take-off of Greta Garbo playing the dying Margaret Gautier in La Dame aux Camellias [actually Camille (George Cukor, 1936)]. Never had one garden seen so much dying. Or, so we might have been forgiven then for thinking. Now, as I write, only half of our number that happy afternoon are still, to my knowledge, alive. We are indeed a shrinking band of witnesses.”—Freddie Mercury: The Real Life (Antaeus, 1997), David Evans and David Minns, p. 176.
Daniel Nester is the author most recently of Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects (99: The Press, 2015). Previous books include How to Be Inappropriate (Soft Skull, 2010), God Save My Queen I and II (Soft Skull, 2003 and 2004), and The Incredible Sestina Anthology (Write Bloody, 2014), which he edited. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Morning News, The Rumpus, Best American Poetry, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, and Now Write! Nonfiction. He is an associate professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York.
These poems originally appeared in God Save My Queen II (Soft Skull, 2004).