Burnt Jam

The sun never really comes out. They, the rich, have stolen it and stored in their castles.
Watching the buzz, from the work house, from the gutter. High hats totter and heels clack into the elite drinking holes, kicking up the odd gutter oyster (a rats liver, half chewed, something discarded from the paupers doctor, a piece of root vegetation). A scene of hoarse-drawn carriages, each with it’s own, lush cabin, inside which virginal beauties dream of star fruits, Turkish delight, tigers, peacock feathers, fountains of wine with rubber duckies boobing upon the semillon skin. The candle light cuts through the curtains. Someone throws blue mud at red wine velvet curtain. They are shot immediately; a crack of smoke. A posturing guard. A faint smile upon his young lips. His master pats his wig.
A fight broke out over some peelings. They spilled from the kitchens. Another shot from the flintlock pistol scatters the crowd. An old man is trampled to death.
By morning, his body had disappeared, leaving only the rags he wore. A phone rang. The kettle boiled. You read this to me. I commented that I hated it. Everything about it.
Everything.
You left.
The sky remained stubbornly sombre but that was exciting somehow. Better than mass hysteria, than making jam, than walks by the sea, than you and me.

Ha.

The sky remained stubbornly sombre but that was exciting somehow. Better than mass hysteria, than making jam, than walks by the sea, than you and me

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Waste Water

Brace yourself. When the fire starts we all look for the water with which to put it out. He sits there, with his glass of water and wonders at the progress of the ash. Brendel plays Schubert in the background. The man listens to Brendel. He feels like a dwarf. The music is so mesmerizing. The floorboards click. No one is knocking. The water grins up at him. I’ve got you, it says. Maybe so, he says, maybe so. A cigar shape lights up the sky, briefly. He raises his eyebrow. Farts.
The day passed too much like its many predecessors. Uneasily. Like wading through treacle. Flimsy thoughts of flight copulate with Spanish dreams. The pavements of the Paseo Del Prado. The clubs containing the piano players, the guitars, the singers, the dark-skinned beauties who no one can touch without fire eating them alive.
He takes another sip of his water and ponders the journey. Wonders if he’ll see her. Wonders, indeed, who SHE is. A fragment of rock chipped from the cliffs. An old book containing the last words of a forgotten, yet brilliant, author. The thunder starts. The crackling lightning rods.
No crest fallen hero’s here folks. Just a small, old gentleman. Still baffled at the world. And in contempt at his own, forced part in it. Keep the headlines. Keep the winds, the tides, the turning of the moon and whatever lurks upon its inky backside. Keep the words away. Turn the page like a printer, a proofreader. Soak in as much as you can before wetted fingers snuff out your candle. Work like a dog and sniff at a stray crotch.
Try for more.
Leaning against a wooden post, an old man watches his young self doing press-ups. His phantom heart nearly bursts in an imitation of an ectoplasmic supernova.
Like the sun, crying itself to sleep.

Wing

Feet dug securely into the earth. Out at sea, a barge shouldered its way through the brine. The sun sparkled indifference; the warmth, complete without poetry, without your new words. The air shuffled the birds into order. Bright and light in the empty air space that, at distance, convinces us that it is blue in colour. Where does the sparkle hide in the invisible blue? Must we mine for this precious element? Uranium, thermamin, beep street hues. You can see the pub. The street where the pub lives, anyway.
For the first time, the feathers pop through the skin; at least, the skin itches, puckers in anticipation. Feet burn and crawl with the sickness of the land underneath its feet. The evil stories written in foul, forgotten fluids.
An old man sits on a bench and shakes his head. His cheeks and nose are alive with large red and purple veins. They look like creatures in themselves. Ropy, pulsating, lined with the smell of alcohol. Skin tags hang from the eyelids and nose like tiny, sleeping bats.

Tired

It’s your eyes. You have such handsome eyes.

But the years later, those long, dragging, alcoholic years; those are the years that take away the handsome.

The other day, let’s say last weekend, a young barmaid said “You look tired”. It got me. I left the bar. Don’t cry for me. You are me. There’s a hole waiting for all of us. And my two peepers, they have sunk deep into puffed cushions; crimson veins spread across those handsome eyes. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There is never anything to complain about. You don’t need to live in a council flat to feel pain and pressure. It’s not necessary to receive physical punishment, day after day, to be a prize fighter. All you need is a heart. Something in common.

Maybe.

You tell me all I need to hear with your eyes.

And I have composed letters to her; many, many letters. None have been sent. I’d have sent them if I wanted to feel the rush again. The shudder from the past. Temporary, at best.

In its original incarnation, we were good. Now, it would be war. War every second, every minute etc.

So I went out and spent money. The cashiers, I avoided eye contact. Still haunted by the ‘tired’ comment. Not because I hated the author, but because I hated the truth. I was tired. I am tired. But still, there is nothing to complain about. There are noisy neighbours. There is a cheap life. There is nothing but the foulness of goodbyes and hello’s. What is in these hello’s and goodbye’s can only be gauged by asking the askers. To me, it’s just noise. A rumble in the air. Like rain. But not thunder. No thunder. Oh, for thunder. Sometimes I pray for storms. Between punches, I jab away the demons with white burgundy.

Through a time of fantasy and dreams, an anti-cynicism, we loved each other. Then the time arrived when we had to face reality. Sadly, tragically, we failed reality. Not the other way around.

Shadow boxing in front of the mirror, I notice my eyes. Tired.

Hel, or the ‘G’ Button

Hel just text me.

“Save me, Russ. Save…me.”

I ignored the tedious, digital, mega-gig bastard. Things to do, you know? I’d just lit an incense stick and was watching the city grow. The UFO’s zipping between buildings, grabbing what they could while the portal remained open. Intergalactic scavengers, that’s all they are. And who would have thought, after all this time, that all they were after was lager, cigs and porn? Believe me, I ‘wanted to believe’ too. But, it seems, we aren’t the only colossal disappointment the galaxy has to offer. In fact, next to these almond eyed freaks, we’re almost palatable. Never thought I’d hear myself thinking that…must be something in the incense.

When I was a baby, I mean a kid, I mean naïve, I mean stupid, I mean a young man led by his dick, I ended up, with some woman, in Singapore. We, that is the woman and I, were staying on a high floor of a very good hotel. We had a room on the sixty somethingth storey. You could see right out over this tropical city. Clouds, the size of whole islands, would rumble across drenching everything. You could: watch the people, like ants, running from the storm: watch the ground change from matte to gloss in one, tremendous sweep. And yet it happened everyday, like clockwork. At the time I remember wondering whether we are so gripped by our needs, obligations and preoccupations that, even when we know what’s ahead, still we test our luck. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why we are extraordinary…

…damned incense.

Today, a building with a sixtieth floor wouldn’t seem that remarkable. It would appear, in this dense megapolis, a mere pimple. It’s ridiculous. And yet, like the storm, we saw it coming.

I’m dying. I know it. My doctors know it. My wife knew it (she left post-diagnosis). I sit here drinking well made cocktails. Retirement complexes are like a long haul flights; they feed ya, water ya, dim the lights and lull you to sleep by bombarding your senses with titillating nothingness.

Sitting here in my cheap, fold out chair looking out at the rusty air with its faint strip of blue before giving up to space, the universe and whatever else, I watch the blue neon headlights of the pimped UFO’s taken on long joy-rides by the wired retired.

I’m happy to watch. And to wait.

The light show and my balcony. The timbre of my pulse carrying cocktail to grey matter. My pet mouse, Miki, at my feet, nibbling the dried flesh off a cuttlefish. Curious creature.

As for Hel, he’s probably sat in his room worrying about me, which is really his way of making sure he’s okay. I wrote him. He’s my monster. And he’s a bore. If he were here, which is impossible, he’d just stare at me and blink anxiously. All fake though. That bastard doesn’t have a caring bone in his body. He’s just a tiresome projection of pixellated neurosis.

Another two UFO’s, probably each welded down the middle, have just crashed about, oooh, three miles away. A halo around a white ball of light, sparks cascading off it, followed by a limp smoky, dead octopus with growing tentacles. Those poor fuckers on the ground.

Been years since I’ve been brave enough to press the ‘G’ button in the lift.

Or stupid enough, truth be told.

Passing

Blip. Thonk. Wheeze. Deep fried fish and good, mouldy cheese. Let the bile rise and gargle it; never allow the smile to slide from your mug. Just nod and blink slowly, once, to confirm that, yes, you agree. Honk. Hon-hon-Honk. Beep, beep, beep, beep…and on and on…a splintered flock of seagulls pretend to be made of paper. A mobile phone whips past your nose. Remember? The sound of the voice, screaming from the receiver; “Eeeee”. And he, whoever he was, stomping off down the street, his hand raised in apology. And the dumb brute, in cave language, “Soy Love”. And then you get it. You told me…on a landline…you said you realised that the buildings were peeling away…you could see people crying into their cans…and when your head became too heavy from sticky, cheap lager and you looked into the drain, you noticed the drains clogged with faces; grey, mottled and with soggy cigs stuffed in their bloated lips…Then, it was probably those ruddy chemicals they put in the lagers that you were chucking down yourself…your mascara…you’d walk to me with  loaded lenses…two…welling…but ah…time to stop.

Then I Remembered

I was listening to a radio programme. On the internet. They were playing these old soundtracks from the 70’s and the 80’s. The sort of thing we would have heard when we were kids. The sort of thing you used to love. And I thought of you when I heard it. I though ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.

It’s like last night.

Saw this beautiful film. An animation; scratchy, heart-wrenchingly well observed. It was about a man and his dog. It was like they could read one another’s minds. And my heart ached with this distant, wayward kind of joy. Weird. Put me on the back foot. This joy that I’m on about, it carried a sadness with it. Like I’d dug up a grave and found two hearts, barely beating, lying side by side together at the bottom of a muddy grave. It had such a strange effect on me this film. The man reminded me of your Dad. The way he was. And the dog, an Alsatian, reminded me of your old dog. I remembered how me and you used to go out to the common and watch her jump into the long grass, biting the heads off the tulips. I remember how she would hurry back to us to check that we were still there. She seemed happy to find us there together. She seemed to smile.

And, yeah, as I watched this film I thought ‘maybe I’ll send it to you’.

And I would have done. I would. But then I remembered that I hated you.

Black Cigarette

(Draws deep on the black cigarette. There are animals (unidentified) squawking, barking and moaning in the darkness. Wonders if he could join them. Complete the chorus, so to speak. The gold tip of the cig is  designed to hint at great quality. Status. He kills himself in style. Yet, still, there is nothing to drink. And ornate bottles promise, goad and bully from the fragments of memory buried low in private, murky recesses. The night is still, aside from the chatter or prayer of the animals. Though an inexplicable and exotic tremor underlies the torpor; as though poised to burst from the tepid trunk of this mortal drudgery from an incomprehensibly preternatural dimension. The fantasy curls with the smoke out into the damp, forgettable evening and dies without a beat, interrupted only by the glow of dead stars.)

He – this man, whoever he is – drops the cigarette onto the grass. He can’t see the grass for the dark but he knows it’s there, humming with a thousand, ancient secrets. And he can’t see the cigarette either. Just its burning tip. He watches it fade; so slowly, as though it is his eyes that are failing. The glow fades until, finally, it disappears altogether. The cigarette, he knows, is still there, somewhere, where he knows the grass must be.

Offside

(A dark hallway. The radio is on. No words exchanged in several hours. The dog yawns on the welcome mat, looks up at the letterbox, then at its owners and lays back down. The news pumps misery all over the carpet.)

Ruth: How was it today?

(She asks but doesn’t care. She scratches her belly and squeezes her eyes shut  and yawns. Then she looks around for the light switch.)

Ian: No, don’t.

(Ian is in the cack. He has sort of fallen in love with this new woman who’s started at work. This new woman likes one of the younger men. Ian hates the younger man. And he hates the new woman. He loves her though.)

Ruth: Okay…alright.

Ian: I’m just saying.

News: …several occasions this year and the rift that has been created is expected to worsen in the coming months…

(She puts the remote control down and stares through the walls. The flowers lose a few more petals onto the window sill above their heads.)

Ruth: I’m off to bed.

Ian: I’ll be up in a minute.

(He staggers down to the basement and finds his old notebooks. They are filled with love letters he never sent. He wonders where they are now, these women he loved but could never say. Darts of light flutter around the shadowy walls.)

Ruth (from upstairs): Can you switch off the lights?

Ian (to himself): They’re already off.

WE ARE YOUR FRENDS!

(Shocking day. Only three, drab colours outside: flesh tint – bauble – cadaver. Snuggle down on the knife edge…make yourself look presentable…think of her, he says to himself. Inhale the smoke, let it waft over the hole where the tooth used to be. Feel the deep sting. If it says 24 hours on the pamphlet, then 24 hours it is. This pain is normal. After all, they say so and they have qualifications.)

Gorgeous George lick his lips before diving into the pool of dreams. He frolics there until delirious. His dripping body brings down buildings. From the outer ionosphere, the planet is heard to crack. The kind of sound that seems to slice between the two halves of the brain. ‘Chocolate milk, chocolate milk, drink it all away with the chocolate milk.’ Then spend mystery currency on a neon whore. Rain the notes over her body. When she blinks, so does the light in the room. Small vehicles beep each other. The smell of the market is picking up. Men and women try on costumes. He stares down at himself: mostly charity shop clothes, mostly charity shop thoughts; platitudes that gouge out his soul. The light fabrics draped across the many, unknown surfaces begin to undulate in the breeze. Her tummy draws in as she takes a deep breath. The ribs emerge starkly beneath the neon. ‘Want me to close a window babe?’ She asks. ‘You’re the one whose cold…’ he says, putting out the cigarette on his hand. ‘Oh, god! Doesn’t that hurt?’ He folds more of the notes into paper aeroplanes and aims them between her legs. She lays there, bored, while he does this. Voices rise up from the street. ‘No, just leave it there.’ ‘Okay, yeah. But no more of the other ones, we can’t take them. It’s not up to me.’ ‘Ham and fries and pineapple smoothies, come one ladies, come on gents.’ ‘Just look it up in doodle…’ He wonders doesn’t it annoy her, all the empty babble. No, it doesn’t, she says. ‘Do you want to do it or not?’ she says. ‘We are doing it.’ he says. He says he doesn’t want to be alone. Funny, she says, funny how our desires can be so different. The is a mirror opposite him. The reds and oranges inside the room manage to make him look healthy. Though he sees that he has shaved badly. He reached into his pocket and gave her a few more of the bills. She looked up at him not knowing exactly what that meant. Then he walked out.

On his way down the grimy, black stairs he slipped a couple of times on something. Then he walked around the market. Young men and women were dressed as each other and were shrieking with delight. A young girl grabbed him, shouted a name. Then almost threw him away upon realising her mistake. Then she saw the money bulging from his pocket. ‘Only joking,’  she says.

The whore flew her jet pack in a beautiful evening dress. She watched below as they devoured the man and took his money. she laughed. Poor soul, she thought. And, still tingling from a night’s toil, sought the empty plains outside the city. The heliotrope hued sky clawed into the black rock beneath. A few dots moved at speed towards a vehicle. From the east, a mountainous simoom devoured the desert.

She was found weeks later. Her body leathern and twisted around devastated metal and splintered rock. Next to her was a large sign made of fibreboard.

‘WE ARE YOUR FRENDS!’ It said.