Friday, 12 February 2010

The Best Revenge (excerpt#1)

A Selection of Opuscules from 1999-2002

Next time there better be mistakes

This, the Best of All Possible Worlds is once again under threat of being upgraded:
Early projections show, next time round, the Byzantine empire may even cross the Pelopennese
The Earth’s spin will be reversed, giving the East a turn at allegorising Progress (or Death)
Plus, they’re thinking, in 1969 (version 2.0), instead of a moon-shot, maybe a moon-catapult?
Which is why we’ve been slipping protest-song lyric-sheets, for the march, under your wiper-blades
Only to see them transmuted by the grey magic of urban reality into traffic tickets & fliers
For Sister Ataraxia’s psychic hotline, malapropistically offering relief from ‘boils, ulcer and goat’

But that won’t stop us. Our militant wing know not the day nor the hour when they will be called up
Only that they will be compelled to take the bus-route less travelled, and perhaps dawdle, killing time
Browsing through paperbacks under a sign they only think is ironic, Please Steal These Books
Until the slow-motion instant arrives for them to be mutely gawping bystanders
When the great pre-climactic car-chase of Western Civilisation goes past, trailing CGI sparks
Two-dimensional characters firing celluloid bullets into redly glistening, left upper-arm fleshwounds
The method actor insists he does himself, between takes (sending a runner for bagels and O neg)

The Propaganda Machine has been suspending dangerously high levels of disbelief, expecting us
To swallow that in the world of romance-for-all, the height of charm will be an inventive disease
And on the planet that supported two species of intelligent life each sulked in the opposite hemisphere
Refusing to speak until the other had been formally introduced by a third, or made its own gambit.
They say the asteroid the size of Texas that KO’d the dinosaurs… was a hoax:
Around the 100,000 year mark they just got bored, and fucked off into extinction
They say You’ll love this world: you’ll have three new senses to enjoy it with: chimble, fitch and roon

So, trust everyone. It’s the caraway seed of truth they’re not counting on, getting between your teeth
Spat out in moments of lucidity. A perfect lie would defy all the laws of metaphysics.
Everyone’s a potential envoy from MONAD: the door-to-door salesman with his new range of sunsets
A sweater knotted around the neck – even the wearing of slacks – these are no guarantee
I, myself, was recruited through subliminal messages in the mottoes of an un-pulled Christmas cracker
Our demands? That’s for them to find out. And us. But we’ll know them when they’ve been met
Our manifesto? No-one makes the Earth their bitch. Not on my watch.

So watch out for the man whose breath doesn’t mist on a January morning (our man on the outside)
The clue might come from the faulty syntax of an Ivy League white witch refusing to acknowledge
The moon’s an arbitrary symbol; any natural phenomenon exhibiting cyclicality would have done.
Sometimes history feels like a breadcrumb trail leading us back to truth but have patience
A single fortune cookie could spell out the destiny of nations; even if sometimes it seems
The people with their fingers on the shiny red button still wear mittens tied together with string
We’re over the dropzone people. Look sharp. This time there will be mistakes. That’s how we like it.


He’d talk sometimes about the Secret Alphabet
In much the same voice you apologise
When the name cried out in sleep really does turn out to be a chiropractor
Or maybe the 5th form teacher who gave you all that bad advice about
And let you pass notes but only in quatrains

The only person I know to lose it to the Placebo effect
Someone told him, see, to quit sucking pencils
“You’ll get lead poisoning”
Except I think he’s happier now
Playing wargames with all the thoughts sucked out of pencils
Like a kid whose imaginary friend went on holiday, kayaking in the
For whom the cans are cowboys and the jars are injuns

Me, I picture him brokering a treaty
For strategic art limitation
Between the predatory superpowers of mind
And then I think of the pauses between our Q & A
The same as a long distance phone-call to somewhere like Tekakwitha
Except without the wires
And maybe that means we’re both of us
At the antipodes of trust

Always were

The Big C

His greatest fear was he’d die in a slow news week
What he ever did that was newsworthy no-one found out
And this was the crippling fear that kept him from doing pretty much anything at all
Besides filing patents for 1000-digit primes he was sure would come in useful
And glazing the acorns, one-by-one, with home-brewed squirrel-repellent
(patent pending)

We didn’t want his maiden aunt to know about the body being mislaid
Hence the casket was filled with his magnum opus
The Encyclopaedia Esoterica (A through Q)
Begun after he quit his hobby soap-carving, at the license-plate factory
If you know what I mean

He used to tease his autistic kid brother, but we knew he loved him, really
That’s him, there between the priest and the bellhop
Got all forlorn if you mentioned the people who slipped through the
Sidewalk Cracks of Life
And one time, I hear, freaked out at the sight of an Organ Grinder
But he’s a good kid (on days with U in them)

He claimed to have recurring dreams about AirFields, and RainForests
(the brother, that is)
No-one could explain Heaven to him
So this is what we made up: that his big brother rode away to Kingdom Come
on a Stalking Horse
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty
Except, y’know, not actually on his hand

You heard about the stripper who turned up to the wake? No?
There isn’t a punchline to this.
She looked just like Hillary Clinton, after the arraignment
(Stoic but sexy)
Said he paid in advance just wanted the pallbearers to have a good time
(which we did)
We being Me, his two brothers, and some homeless guy we persuaded with canap├ęs
Toasting him with sparkling wine from some place hasn’t even heard of
human rights.


I think it’s fair to say:
Every bottom-feeder dreams of being a shark

My thoughts are with them tonight
Spiralling through concentric biomorphs of green and purple
To the sunken village, mud-drifts at every door
The church that was never de-consecrated, though that hardly means the gudgeons
can claim sanctuary from the pike

You said, that day we went swimming in what was once the sky
above the village, now a reservoir:

“The dam isn’t generating hydroelectric power at all.
I think They’ve found a way to use the potential difference
between a House and a Home.

“This is just the start. When they figure out how to
usefully convert pets into strays, or crucifixes into toothpicks,
prayermats into placemats, Beat Poetry into ad-campaigns
… I’ll be getting the Hell out of Dodge.”

“Ooh! I can see the spire between my toes!”

When we first met, she was Wessex’s leading cerealogist, under 25.
Only reluctantly admitted to the cabal of bearded skywatchers
by virtue of a hippie name and ‘helpless-female’ claim, to know

“…next to nothing about theodolites, really.”

There was never anything between us.

That’s to say: Dean Moriarty came between us.
And if I couldn’t mean as much to her as Carl Solomon to Allen, how could I
mean anything to her?
This is why it surprised me to see her down as the guest-speaker
at the Bedford Square Y. If I sidled in at the back, maybe I’d hear her
asking an audience, not one of them under colostomy-bag age:

“Just consider, for a second, the possibility your earliest memory
might be your last memory from your last life.”

Except on closer inspection, the guest-speaker wasn’t ‘Teazle P – ’
but ‘Tamzil P – ’ and somehow I don’t picture a Tamzil
pinching someone’s nipple for complete attention; breathing garlicky:

“Make love tooth and nail.
That’s an order.
Love’s not Love that’s not tooth and nail.”

Time more profitably spent transcribing birdsong

Time collapses in on itself at the singularity of these reunions, the half-decade between then and now
That could have been forever, compressing the present infinitesimally, leaving the imprint of eternity
The present itself only what we choose to remember of the future at any given moment
As a die shows all faces at every moment, but only one is chosen to be seen and to matter

And if all perception is recognition then nothing is ever lost, but then nothing was ever found
That has not been picked up, dusted off, and set to wait (one-eyed) on the dry-stone wall along the churchward-wending lane (like the gills, or scales of the great slow creature that is a Wessex village)
All will be claimed in time. Though most languish in indifference, content with the assurance that
A priori knowledge is, of course, impossible (we’ve had people working on this a while now)

But how else to explain the lichen we saw spelling out your name?
Or the dot matrix when you peer closely at anything just out of reach; these clues we choose to ignore
Not least the fact we can summon anything into being simply by not asking for it
So summon them, the way you summon sleep, falling into a world where flying means treading air
As if it were water – which I need not tell you means Exile, an intimation of ending

Though dreams themselves are our first intimation the First Law of Thermodynamics
(for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) might be breached
And to be lucid in life, as in dream, is to know when, and what you’re dreaming
Meaning: we can imagine our cake and eat it; burning candles and all, if so required
So that every transgression was prefigured the day we crossed the tracks into the pathless woods
Adult prohibitions no more authoritative then than aphorisms about sidewalk cracks

And if the shadowplay of inanimate objects (un-nannied by Reason) forms the shapes of your fears
Or the heat-expanded timbers of the settling house creaking in quick succession seem steps towards
The corollary of the thought This might be your billionth and last breath but it isn’t
The next insight might be the first tug at peeling wallpaper revealing another room beneath
Just as the expanse of mist over the field was the cumulative breath-cloud of an entire herd that night
Martyring yourself to solitude (though allegory has been known to X-dress as actuality before)

Namely, the time we invited three different sides of our personality to a party to smirk and watch
Which one flirts with which, and who’s surprised when the fourth arrives un-announced
This being the party when someone (I swear) expressed admiration for our host’s antique head
Though I’m not sure if there was a punchline to the joke: Her first word was Dada; her second, Fluxus
Or even if it was a joke, suggesting now, just how tiresome it must have been before Babel, or in Eden

When, pace Aristotle, A actually was A (not that the snake was ever a snake, nor the apple an apple)
When the faces words showed to their speaker were just the same for the listener, back in pre-hystery
Though you can bet Pandora would have been Pandorus if the originary myth of Hope were re-written
As the originary myth of Humour, as it is in the alternate universe that fell into its own singularity
(where it shivers curled up smaller than a quark) eliciting an APB for Theoretical Meta-physicists

Excepting those, even now, interrogating the Samoan tribesman of anthropological legend, who states:
“There is something that walks amongst the trees… but we never talk about it,” shedding some light on older advice: in the teeth of the desert, look for the tracks the wind won’t blow away
Words accompanied by the same sensation as when we check the ¼-profile face in the photograph
To see that it hasn’t turned to ours: neither relief, nor certainty, only the double anxiety the suspicion
Must have proceeded from somewhere, and where if not the focal point of that gaze, out of frame…?

That impossible point, unseen, only the photographed can know but don’t look too long
Lest the compulsion to mind-read lure you into contemplating the ontology of a mimesis
Horrific as that other silence that is not the absence of sound koans don’t tell you about
Breeding in the narrow places between words
we only thought we knew

Sketches of demons, for a novel (2007)

Vanishing Ratios: Case Studies

“……the one with twisted limbs –

“……whose eyes are mirrors, or smoked glass –

“……and I heard her called ‘She who eats last, and only what is left, and everything that is left; she from whom all shadows flee –

“……whose hands have fused at the little fingers, and wrists, to become a bowl –

“……who cries white tears, cheeks streaked and crusted. In the corner of the dark house, where they wait –

“……the gardener who tends the flowers and weeds alike, and never chases away the animals –

“……whose shadows dance at her feet; you’d think they were her animals; you’d think two suns, or three, had swooped down to light her way –


“……who keeps on nursing the child, what used to be the child, long after it’s dead –

“……with flies, flies crawling in and out of his mouth, his ears, his nostrils, and what should be his eyes –

“……who speaks in all the voices of all the people you ever loved, and lets you hear what they thought all along, what they really thought –

“……in the pupil of each of her eyes, your face, a skull –

“……whose shit has bones in it, and also license plates, credit cards, lamp-posts, horseshoes, trees, whales, bicycles, entomologists, paper umbrellas, paparazzi, gondolas, stowaways, false-teeth, air-raid sirens, traffic lights, mistletoe, helicopters –

“……the one who promises, in a tone that brooks no doubt –

“ ‘…In the next life you will change places. She will be you, and you will be she, and when we meet again (in this place between lives), all of this will make sense.”

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Trauma and Foreplay

Jean-Paul Sartre is at his desk, trying to concentrate. He’s more than a little hung-over, having spent the night with the Surrealists, and hangovers are more than a little problematic when you suffer from wall-eye. Imagine room-spin, when your eyes are determined to go in different directions. You can’t can you? Imagine a cake where the candles are human fingers – take a bite. You can imagine that, can’t you? (The fingers are still moving.) One of these days, Sartre is convinced, he’s going to throw up on the back of his own head. Ugh – the Surrealists… They were celebrating the return of Breton from the Tropics, passing around a bottle that had a worm in it; fat and wrinkled like a flaccid member on a cold day. Drinking worm juice – the sort of childish prankery one might expect from the Surrealists, but No – this turns out to be a drink Breton bought on his travels, from Mexico, of all places. As it did a lap of the table, and came round to him, Sartre had refused it, but then the taunting started, and if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s being taunted. That’s why women covet his manhood. They seduce him as a trophy – the great philosopher – and there’s that little smile as they think they’re being so charitable, les poutaines, and then he becomes enraged, swells hard, and gives them what for. After that, they’re begging for another ride, and this is when he discards them. What do you do, though, when it’s a ring of sweaty, roseate, moustachioed male faces, chanting, taunting – Drink it! Drink it! – eh? What then? No-one had tried the weird cactus, Breton brought back from Mexico, and there it was, sitting on the table. Slamming down the bottle, Sartre gobbled the chunk of dried cactus – bitter and tough as chewing on a workman’s vest. A workman in the sewers, too… Still, he swallowed it whole, swigged some of the firewater to wash it down, and that shut the Surrealists up.

Right now, he’s trying to remember the title for the book, he thought up last night. His great work of phenomenology, developing the concept of Dasein, although when he tried to explain it to Breton, after the third glass of pastis, the Surrealists had mocked his drunken stutter, and applauded him for inventing Dadasein: the condition of being Dada! Bravo Sartre – that is why we let you hang out with us! they said – as if he should be grateful of their company! ANYHOW. The title was supposed to be a sort of play on Etre et AvoirSomething and Something else, you know; a pair of words that were vaguely homophonous… but what? Being and Believing? From somewhere over his right shoulder, near the bookshelf, a voice:

Trauma and Foreplay

Sacre bleu! Sitting on the bust of Hegel, a cheroot in its fore-pincer, is a crab.

“What, after all, is life, if not Trauma and Foreplay?”

This, it turns out, is the last sensible thing the crab says. Also, it’s not a crab, but a lobster, un hommard, although for some reason the name escapes Sartre at this particular moment –

“………Then again, I get so easily distracted when the dustmotes are sending me messages; we’re all of us stickered on the flypaper of the mind, don’t you think? This very city we’re in – right here and now – is carpeted with fishscales, if you look close. You wouldn’t know it to look at it, and these people I call my friends are just miserably burning bushes all bleating for attention in the wilderness. ‘Oh, oh, please worship me! Build me a pyramid where I can hatch my monkeys!’ I tell you… little Johnny Sartre, crying to his mother because his sister’s votary candle is so much more shimmery it’s sure to send her prayer to the Big Beard first. Let me tell you, you couldn’t go faster if you had crystal spurs and a chariot drawn by voles. This, good sir, is the doyen of Hysteria. Watch her well, her lust is like the wavelets that aren’t whipped by the wind, but reach up for the stars, so baubley pretty you just want to kiss them to supernova.”

Sartre asks: "Are you really here, Monsieur Crustace? Is Trauma & Foreplay what you think I should be writing about? You are so wise! Of course – it is bad faith to think that life is a matter of Sex & Violence; our human condition is always interstitial! We are always between sex-acts, even in the throes of coition, whether the “act” is penetration or orgasmo-culmination; always witnesses, even as the shells burst around us! Are you here to help me write my book…?

“Depends on the little pet living in my mouth, doesn’t it? Can he be housebroken, or is it the glue-factory for Little Johnny Duck-Tooth? I am, in truth, wherever a brain may be found, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper, and crawling with termites. Take heed: Dusk is falling on the plains of rabies. A trilby’d figure walks abroad with his head like a bone-bubble…”

The crab pauses to take a drag on the cheroot. Sartre notices, a little alarmed, that smoke emerges from under the articulated plates of the crab’s tale. Other little ones are positioned elsewhere on the shelves, inspecting the spines, and tapping on Hegel’s head for clues. Sartre is disappointed. Is the crab only willing to divulge drivel? On and on it rambles, about roses not being quite so pretty, when you see them drooling; bragging about his eyes on stalks, and how they allow him to see the mauve gases that steam from the windows of knocking shops – all the unspent sexuality, and the tiny chorus of sperminal souls relieved not to have been snapped up by The Great Egg, this time… After a few hours, it becomes easier to ignore the crab, and his scuttling enfants, but neither do they show any signs of fading away, or leaving, and always manage to scatter, when he swats at them. The one who talks remains poised atop Mt. Hegel, the whole while; just when his drone seems due to pass into irrelevance, a fragment of sense piques the philosopher’s curiosity. “Have you shared the cigarettes of the dying?” says the crab, at which Sartre looks up, then hearing only more inanities, curses – Damn them! Damn them all! I’m going to destroy the Surrealists if it’s the last thing I do!!!