life

Misgivings

You know most of this already.

In the car with them, sitting in the back seat with her up front passenger-wise and turned back to me the two of us and talking fast like always like she had something to sell that she knew we hadn’t the cash or care to buy and the rain pelted the windshield and the wipers swung right back and the dark was outside full of unfocused and flickering points of light, streetlamps and headlights and incidental bokeh, while some vague figure in shadow form all the while drove us on.

Afterspiel, when she’d used up all her words and most of the air in the vehicle, I told her in fact no, our problem is we try to do too much too fast, all force and no finesse, just blind dumb vigor and ataxia and too little brains, like these wipers here, perhaps, I felt, reaching for a metaphor, sweeping dismissive overreliance on artificial intelligences built up around sleights perceived and true and entitlements seemingly due, ungrounded emotion and mechanical philistinism with an inarticulable mission like the goons who forcibly removed that doctor from a plane in Chicago and probably went home that night and had the nerve to believe in civil society though in their idiomatics it’s hard to believe any such nerve is needed, they haven’t even the proper vocab for the fact that kids in the same city kill with AK-47s and five people died last Wednesday just because, nothing happening, nothing going on, just a Wednesday in the city and what do you make of that, if you were to stop and sit still and be quiet for a minute.

The other there with us in the back seat with me was compelled to agree with me and I wondered what keywords in her repertoire of principled social consciousness I tapped, knowing for sure she wasn’t packing even the slightest hint of directional allegory, as oblivious to irony as those goons and maybe just as gullible, just as crowdsourced, giving a mere simple pacific piggybacking mhmm and nod of head, pleased that someone had done the thing and spoken out because somewhere along the straight and narrow well-meaning way she acquired the notion that speaking out said something but it at the very least for the moment changed our atmosphere.

And with that, nevertheless, just her up front stillness and quiet and that slight sound and musculoskeletal gesture in the back beside me within the still-floating presence of my words, I’ll be damned if a faint fellowship did not for a moment shine upon us all four road-weary travelers like the immediate aftermath of a photograph flash, a fraction of assent trying its best to be illumination and hanging in the air and draping us in what I can only think to call our common humanity, common and shared and base, and for that instant it felt not as if we were two against her brazen, impudent one, not as if the three of us outshined and consumed his resolute nothing drive-along indifference and better-knowing onlooker’s bemusement, but as if we were actual, and in that actuality a forward step might be taken, an honest word might be uttered, some responsibility assumed, a tide turned, a leaf flipped, a change made.

But it swiftly turned to dust as always tends to seems to happen with everything with vocal chords and no backbone and all was once again rain and shadows and distorted glows and she just looked at me through streaks of darkness and light and a sort of crazed eye blaze on par with Colonel Kurtz and I wished I hadn’t said a thing, wished I could vanish along with the dust of our fleeting fellowship, right along with it be turned to dust myself and taken away by wind and washed away by rain,

but all I could do was shrink from the terrible inordinacy of the space she occupied up front in that fractured darkness, already shaking off my rejoinder like a dog fresh out of water while I began inwardly apologizing by proxy and diminished presence for others’ misdeeds, her misnomers, our great misanthropy, daymare dreaming in my passive defense a wishful little thesis about going beyond thought as if awareness were something cartographical lying somewhere off the edge of the world, somewhere where I might forever sever ties to the false freedom of staying small amongst the throngs and the safety sense that silence might be the way to say what life’s about, beating myself into a backseat submission that like a deep bruise I felt lacked his up front strength and dignity, and yet

And yet there is hope, he said, and stopped us all.

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prosetry

RudeTube

The day after the November 2015 Paris attacks

I was standing on the platform with my eyes shut, listening for the familiar rumble of the northbound train. As the train was pulling up I saw how busy it was and thought, Saturday night, last tube out of town, of course it’s packed, I definitely won’t get a seat, bugger. But then the carriage that stopped in front of me had an empty bit where nobody was sitting or standing, an uncharacteristic gap in the sardines. I gathered that somebody’s obviously thrown up everywhere or that perhaps there’s an unconscious drunkard lying on the floor. Wincing at the prospect of the smell of piss and/or vomit accompanying me all the way to the last stop, I got on the train. But there was nothing there. Only a young man, dressed in traditional Islamic clothing, sitting quietly with two bags of groceries at his Adidas-clad feet. I was baffled. All of the seats around him were free and clean and dry and yet everyone else was standing by the doors and acting shifty. I looked at the other passengers for an explanation, thinking I must have missed something, but they all looked away or looked down or inspected their fingernails, so I said What the fuck? and sat down opposite the young man. I gave him a brief nod, took my book from my handbag and began to read, and then the man said to me, Thank you, and I said, I’m sorry

 

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poetry

Ode to the Frenchman and the Stranger called Culture

I would like
to go out
to dance;
to drink;
to love;
to live.

But people are mean
and the bottles in my
flat
are kind
and easy to
understand.
I prefer their company.

Because between the
unsightly buttcracks
and clothes so
tight they explain
why this generation
walks around
with a perpetual hard-on,

And the simple nature
of screw tops
on white wine bottles,
the choice is a simple one.

Humanity is an egotistical
beast.
It doesn’t need
my faith to thrive.

Now while Facebook
busies itself
with domesticated tiger cubs,
babies dying across the wrong borders
and gluten-free, low-calorie cupcakes,

I’ll pay homage to the dead
and pour myself
a glass.

Don’t worry,
I’ll leave one for you, too.

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Le Macabre

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Le Macabre – 23 Meard Street, London W1. A popular cafe during the 60s which used coffins as tables, bakelite skulls for ashtrays, skull-shaped milk jugs, murals of skeletons and graveyards, and a jukebox that featured the Funeral March. (source)


 

I am eating the oxygen of the 30-something man sitting next to me. One day he’ll be dead. I do not know his name, I have never seen him before, I will probably never see him again. I imagine him decomposing under the soil. When he smiles at me I see that he has worms in his teeth and grit on his gums. I think he may outlive me.

The sleeping baby, the Brazilian barista, the old boys smoking in the doorway, the schoolgirls in the corner, the young lady on crutches, the suits discussing business, the man washing the windows: you are all going to be dead one day. Nothing but dead.

I wonder who will die first, I wonder how soon it will be.

I wonder who will be buried, I wonder who will be cremated.

I wonder who will die surrounded by family and friends, I wonder who will die alone.

I wonder who will die happy and content, I wonder who will die sad, angry, bitter, unfulfilled.

I wonder if anyone in this cafe will die by their own hand, I wonder if anyone in this cafe will be murdered.

I wonder who will be next, I wonder who will be last.

Out of all the twenty-odd people in this cafe, I don’t want to be the first to die. I don’t want to be the last to die either. Someone in this room will outlive every human who was in this cafe, in this town, on this day, at this time. I look around. It will not be me. It will not be me.

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