prosetry

Put Your Heart in the Hands of a Cynic

You’re a marvelous being, he says to her, eyes squinting for a better view behind the smudgy rose-colored lenses of his spectacles, common sense folded neatly on the white linen tablecloth beside the sweating half-empty/full water carafe as he reclines in a slight wicker chair on a warm, impressionistic day outside the café he’s only just imagined could be the setting of a turning point in a life story called I Missed the Good Stuff.

Possibility isn’t just enough, it’s all.

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prosetry

The Eclectic Lucozade Acid Test

I woke up in an unfilled grave; you were licking the morning dew off my face and I thought it was 1953.


A wise man once told me, “Never write about your trips,” in the same way that people say you should never write about your dreams, because no one was there, no one would understand, no one cares and (no matter how precise your descriptions or how excellent your storytelling) no one will ever see what you saw in the way that you want them to see it. And this will ultimately frustrate you, and force the words, “You had to have been there,” to pour out of your mouth before you’ve had the chance to cram them back in. Then you sound like an utter dick and it’s too late and nothing good has been achieved. But then, I argued, what the hell did Kesey build a career on? The wise man was silenced. I wrote notes about my trips.


FRIDGE-FREEZER

We went to the construction site/fly-tipping spot behind the pub. It was dark but Venus followed us, the eye in the sky. There was an abandoned fridge-freezer laying pathetically on its side. We opened the doors and were disappointed that there was nothing exciting inside. We wanted there to be a suitcase of money or a severed head or a gun or a baby. Instead there were only some crisp packets, empty bottles, old newspapers and a used condom. The disappointment on my face must have been palpable. You took off your boot and produced a pack of tabs from underneath your insole. “Classy,” I said, while you hopped about. “You game?” “Always.” I stood on the fridge so I was eye-level with you. You balanced a tab on the tip of your index finger and said, “To fathom hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.” “I already know hell,” I said. “Well then, you’ve got nothing to fear, my little angel.” You put the tab on my tongue and we were off.


MOVE

Some general merriment ensued, we went back to the pub and drank tequila, there was an incident at the kebab shop, then we carried on drinking at the working man’s club and I beat you at pool but then things around me started to move so we made a move.


TAKE ME TO CHURCH

Remember those evil gargoyles at the church? How they were alive but couldn’t leave their perch, and one of them spat at you? They wouldn’t let us in the church: we weren’t welcome there, we were too bad. They snarled and clawed until we were out of sight. I remember we counted, and there were 12 of them, 3 guarding each corner. We seriously pissed them off. I’m surprised they didn’t eat us alive. I went past that church last week and it doesn’t have any gargoyles. It’s not even remotely Gothic in style. Also, it only has one clock face, not 10. But there were definitely 12 gargoyles. Or perhaps it was the tequila.


MR. GANESH

By the church it started to rain. The rain hurt me. The drops were hitting me and going through my skin, then either coming out the other side of my arm or staying inside my body. Like acid rain dissolving a statue. It wasn’t horrific but it hurt and I didn’t like it.

We ducked into Mr Patel’s corner shop. He said, “I’m just about to close,” and you said, “We just need orange Lucozade. Not the red one, the orange one. It has to be the orange one. I need it. It’s very important,” and I said I only needed cigarettes and a purple Ribena. “Very well,” said Mr Patel. Behind the counter stood Mr Patel, and behind Mr Patel there was a colourful, A4-sized poster of Ganesh. I don’t know how but suddenly the two beings merged. On the poster was Mr Patel’s shrunken head on Ganesh’s body, and Mr Patel was handing me my smokes but his head was Ganesh’s elephant head wearing a magnificent gold crown. “Anything else?” asked Mr Patel from inside the poster. “No,” I said cautiously, passing a tenner to the life-size Ganesh who was standing behind the counter, wearing Mr Patel’s clothes. I said to the poster, “Mr Patel, you are a God amongst men,” and he chuckled in the way that he always does and told me to clear off and stay out of trouble.


HOME

The rain stopped and after we walked for what felt like two years, we got to the cemetery halfway down the hill. We were welcomed there with open arms. I remember you saying, “We’re home!” and grabbing my hand, and your palms were cold and sweaty but I couldn’t have let go even if our lives depended on it. The trees knew our names and the dark clouds kept us warm – we wore the sky like a cloak, draped around our shoulders, billowing behind us as we played among the graves.


INSTALLATION

We wandered around the oldest graves but I knew that there were no bodies there. I explained to you my theory, that these crumbling graves were actually an elaborate art installation that had probably been created by a local artist only last week because they knew we were coming to this cemetery, they knew that we would come home eventually. Because people always go home, eventually. “This is just an outdoor art gallery, not a burial site,” I told to you, with absolute conviction. You bought it, of course.


CHIMES

Lots of graves have little decorations but the infant cemetery has plenty. It seemed like there were at least one hundred wind chimes on each tiny grave. They were loud, the only thing we could hear, but not in a deafening or annoying way: the sound was just beautiful. Those gentle chimes dancing in the breeze played for us a lullaby, written, performed and orchestrated by the stars in heaven. I have never heard a sound so pure and I doubt I ever will again. It was truly a magical set of sounds. I lay back on an old brick wall and your drummed your fingers on my rib cage, playing me like a xylophone, accompanying the clinks of the chimes, in harmony, so heavenly.

We heard wind chimes following us around for weeks after. But, in reality, when the colours have dulled and your shoulders have regained all that weight they’d lost and you’ve repossessed your worries and cynicism, the twinkling of wind chimes just makes one think of baby-sized coffins and dead children. (You got me a wind chime for my birthday: I daren’t hang it up).


KISSES

You kissed my skin all over but it was the most asexual thing. There was absolutely no lust or love in this closeness, there was no suggestion or motive, it was kissing in its most basic form: simply placing your mouth on me. You said I tasted like vanilla custard, “proper, bright yellow custard,” you said, “not lumpy school-dinner custard.” My mouth tasted full of fizz. Not champagne or soda or sherbet, but the sound of fizzing. That was it: all I could taste was the sound of fizz. Time for another tab.


THE BIRDS

Your hair felt like feathers. I wondered if you’d been a bird in a past life. I guessed you were a game bird, a grouse or pheasant. You said, “Maybe that’s why I’m so passionately anti-guns.” At the time that was the most profound thing I’d ever heard. Now we laugh about it.

Above the wind chimes but below the blanket sky, was a murder of crows. We discussed how excellent that collective noun is, along with a parliament of owls, an unkindness of ravens and an ostentation of peacocks. Corvidae are my favourite group of birds by far, and I have always felt an affinity toward them. These crows were so very powerful. They did not seem sinister or ominous at all, rather they were our guardians, our protectors. We knew that nothing bad could happen to us under the watch of the crows. They were truly superior in every sense, majestic even, and we felt enormous respect for them. We discussed going to the Tower of London to see the ravens but the last train had been and gone. Suddenly I saw yeomen warders hopping about the cemetery in their full regalia, picking at the grass for worms, coins and stale bread. All of their faces were the same, like the archetypal beefeater carbon copied to create exact clones – like whatever you’d imagine a beefeater to look like, that’s what they looked like, times ten. They didn’t bother us at all. But they wouldn’t have, not with their masters circling above us. In a fantastic turning of the tables, the yeomen were bottom of the pecking order.


REALITY

After this I lost a few hours. I can’t remember anything noteworthy. I know that it got very cold and that we went to sleep in an empty grave. Upon waking the next morning, I knew it was 1953. I have never been so sure of anything in my life, until I climbed out of the grave and wandered around. If it weren’t for the twos and ohs on the headstones jolting me back to reality, I wouldn’t have known any different, and I did, for a very slight moment, think we may have woken up in the future. My green scarf was discarded a little away from our sleeping place. You saw it and thought it was a snake. You liked it. I let you keep it, as a pet.

We walked down the hill, bedraggled but full of new thoughts, to the cafe for a fry up. We walked in near silence. I took that to mean that your dreams were as unnerving and terrifying as mine were, and weren’t something to be discussed for fear of bringing the other one down. Or maybe you didn’t dream at all. But anyway, a wise man once told me to never write about your dreams. So I’ll leave it at that.

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prosetry

groping for attention’s instruments

Have you ever fallen for someone at the sound of their voice? No, he said. But I’ve created it. Sometimes you need something, so that’s what you do. It’s not always good, mind you, maybe not even often. Be excited, though—that’s why thoughts end up meaning so much. Enlightenment is not just caring whether what you do is of any value, it’s acknowledging that it probably isn’t. The things that sidetrack us online reveal what we’re really after anyway.

I was looking for a video of Derrida describing the moment before sleep when he’s the closest to truth but found myself searching sheepishly, distraction-blind to the thread of thoughts between, for a skeleton I’d kissed in a dream standing on a plateau beneath a giant sky, taken by my dream-lack of astonishment at the absolute-ness of her fleshless recognizability and acknowledging the parallel impossibility of knowing whether I’d actually found “her” and couldn’t hear her “speak,” settling instead on a strange and roving spellbinding “piece” about apparitions, fodder for more to make.

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prosetry

i am a waterspout for impressions

It’s not going to look big but it is if you make it. Tomorrow would be better if it wasn’t like today. I’d be better if I saw dissatisfaction as synonymous with unawareness, or so I try. The things we say. My sister and I have unacknowledged but obvious dreams of being other than we are that (I think) we see as either survival or tenacity but, usually, not both in the same day. The mirror in the bathroom of this house is too low for me to see myself in full anyway—I’m a torso and a neck with a little bit of chin when I stand before it and that sounds about right. Here, birds chirp in the morning outside the bedroom window above my head and sometimes there’s a spider on the wall, sometimes worse. Matters of fact are excellent distractions from the things I might otherwise wish to say about working through the welcome absence of sirens to guide me back home to loving myself.

Emboldened by night, the thoughts I think often fall flat by morning.

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tabernacled in flesh

It’s the keeping in that makes my heart palpitate because it’s not telling the truth and then I’m in a hospital bed being nothing but honest about the white in my beard. Football (or fútbol) or baseball (or fútbol). Boxers or briefs. Scotch or whiskey (or wine or beer). Blondes or brunettes or both or whatever. It’s this or that, to be a man, and sometimes life or death—but you saw that coming.

Poets are soft i.e. effeminate and I’ve been told I have both but definitions are fluid and you wouldn’t know it to look at me. All that matters is right now, he said, stoically, warm with stern tradition, and I’m constantly surprised to be here, tormented at times by possible selves and seeking an appropriate rendering of manhood to stick to.

Today I am the type who folds over the corners of too many pages of too many books, parturient with the power of what words have done to me and holding fast to the strange singular spirit within.

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like a shadow burned into a wall

It was a week of work, my first in over two months. Funny how you can tell what kind of day you’ll have in the first ten minutes of wakefulness. Is sensitivity something we learn? It’s hard to emulate the idiomatic and constitutional, but easy to hide behind it.

Thoughts of authenticity the other night after watching “Atlanta” connected themselves to others about lived experience, my life, and Charles Johnson, who is from the town in which I now reside and will be here again to give a talk in May. This is apparently worthy of transcription.

Self-conscious self-criticism always “kept me honest” while I sought ways to raise myself up out of the everyday, confused, predictably romanticizing “just making it” and being afraid of dependence. Writing isn’t the application of forms, it’s unfolding. I’ve made my truths, fiction et non, and still going.

Really I’m not my past, but I can get back to it like Theseus to Ariadne. Peter and the Wolf gave me a glimpse of heritage as a child and I made it my own mythology. Peter was the violin and my middle name and all was quiet, all was well.

Russian fur hats and black boots and military jackets and good-natured young boys and protective grandfathers I never knew, if I had to pluralize. Now I write prose poems because they’re somewhere between rap and short stories and because I’m from somewhere where that makes sense, working for a living and working on a novel about belonging that I might should maybe call The Clew and the Minotaur but I won’t tell you who’s who.

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prosetry

Tracks

​By the time you’d finished reading the LOTR trilogy, the grass had grown over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

How I loved filling those empty hours with you at the train station in my town, in that same spot, off the main platform, over the safety barriers, under the concrete stairs.

Tuesdays and Thursdays. Autumn and Spring. Never the times in between. Always evening. Always vodka. Side by side, sky high, putting the world to rights. “What we think, we become,” you said one night. “I fucking hope not,” I replied.

I cried a lot back then. You let me. But you never let me get too close to the fast trains, even when it seemed like my mind had already hurled itself in front of one. You were splattered with the viscera of my brain, but through my words, my stories, my secrets, my ideas.

No one likes to have their train delayed, not by a technical fault, not by staff shortages, and certainly not by a jumper. We hate so much for our train to be delayed even by a few minutes and yet we willingly delay so many great things in our lives, out of fear, out of diffidence, out of our minds.

You did not delay in telling me that you loved me. That was a great thing you did. It was urgent, as if you’d been waiting your whole life to love me. I think that staying alive is delaying me from attaining the greatest thing of my life: nonexistence. I am causing my own delays out of fear, fear of the unknown.

I am not as brave as you. I used to be fearless – you know, that’s when you loved me. Now you are fearless, just as I taught you to be, and thousands of miles away, while I am still at the station and I am afraid.

By the time I’ve finished reading the 1Q84 trilogy, the grass will have grown again over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

Our initials are still spray-painted underneath the 7th stair, above where we used to shelter from the rain. The black letters look as fresh as the day you sprayed them, a decade ago. I remember the black paint on your white shirt, and how I pierced your ear and you pierced my nose, and we lay our heads on the tracks and listened for the heavy electricity coursing through the rails and cables, the static jolts of the approaching train, stronger and longer, nearer and louder. We’d move out of the way at the last moment and laugh for England as the police chased us away. We have grown too tired and too cynical to thrive on adrenaline and blind faith like we used to. London has caught up with us.

You said you’d always be here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like maggots in ketchup. While I delay in finding peace out of fear of missing the madness, I will not delay in saying this: I am still here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like the empty vodka bottles that are under the stairs, at the station, where we used to shelter from the rain, by the fast trains, by our graffitied names, by the railway tracks where we used to lie.

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