shadows shouldn’t form when the sun is this high
but round here everyone’s more concerned with noughts than oughts
welcome to Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino,
slots, coffee shop, live gaming
liars – this is a shadow
a shadow held within the binbags beneath my eyeballs
horror film graveyard in neon
headstone fruit machine glistening like simmering vomit
“hello, what would you like?”
A double cheeseburger combo meal, i guess
“Sorry, could you talk slower?”
Okay, yeah, that would seem appropriate
flat, sweetened ice tea
he’s got type-2 diabetes and he doesn’t have a sweet tooth
might aswell spend this last quarter on a a half-chewed mentos,
a burnt pancake,
a one-legged prostitute,
a cum-stained gideon’s bible,
a tinny, tannoy eulogy by Michael Buble
might aswell, might aswell
no-one here to tell me off, only to congratulate
Thankyou for visiting Whiskey Pete’s
Kids eat free from 10 til 3
My feathers shimmering gold with the unashamed pride of a bachelors
and so, after three years, we reach the end of the chapter
Director is a rich man
But not through the back-hand
His bookshelves can boast
His kitchen cupboards curve beautifully – they delineate the avant-garde
He used to eat prawn cocktails and steakhouse steak
But now he eats pancakes with fruit a la mode
On his walls are framed posters of his previous films
The eldest are retro 70s prints:
Real men, hairy chests, wonky teeth, lumberjack moustaches
Poor girls, untanned skin, dainty breasts, untouched pubic hair.
Historian and fashionista dinner guests study them, take interest in them
Good, thinks Director.
Director calls himself an artist
And it is only those hidebound masses who disagree:
Those bastards Nigel and Mrs Jones and Revered Green.
University-educated-people reward him during award shows
Which are never televised for fear of ruining TV-dinners.
Director is a rich man
Need not chase a quick buck
Not like those Hollywood directors
He wretches at Hollywood blockbusters:
Superman is just ridiculous, no-one is that strong
James Bond is a womaniser
He resents that they earn box-office millions.
He says to the girl
I’d like you to sit on his face
I’d like you to smother his nose with the arsehole you bleached yourself
Fill up his nostrils with your vulva
Shaved in a salon, paid for with money you’ve earnt
I’d like you to trample on him
I want him to become indistinct from the dirt
And please, enjoy it cos you’re owed it
He says to the man
I want you to lie there whimpering
I want you to plead for the humiliation
And be grateful for when it comes
I want you all the while to think of your mother
And apologise to her
You must eat the dirt, bite the dust
You deserve it
Director arrives home, alone.
He sits in the shower naked, looking at himself in the mirror
He slaps himself
He tells himself not to worry too much about the future
And that everything will work out for the best
In Karel Capek’s play ‘The Makropolous Case’, we meet Emilia Marty. She is 342 years old, made immortal by the consumption of an elixir. Time has ravaged her interests, exhausted those desires about the things she cares about so that her being ends up joyless, devoid of meaning, intolerable. She eventually refuses the elixir, destroys it and proclaims the “end of immortality”, the end of boredom.
Someone clever said that meaning and one’s pursuit of it died with God’s demise. Lucky, then, I live in the suburbs. Here, Gothic spires still puncture through translucent, evergreen canopies of chlorophyll, the clayed brick, noble gas Tesco extra signs, through the nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (20%) and miscellaneous gases (0.2%). They shield English faces, white as lamb’s wool, from UV and cast sober shadows over front lawns: opaque, perfectly conceived triangles, co-substantial angles and lines drawn by the invisible hands of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They highlight, guide, where Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Thompson, Mr. Butler have made unshapely their grass. Thou shalt not allow tufts of turf to remain uncut. Love thy carnations as thyself.
Thank Christ (or thank the Sunday School my Mum ran) for the light (and dark) of the world. It lets me see. I can see the agential being of my feet hang off the edge of the sofa. I can see the space and time inbetween my toes, wiggle, wiggle, I did that!, wiggle, wiggle, in the afternoon’s sunlight. Ew, I’ve sinner’s soles, they need a wash. I need a shower. The sweat of Clark’s leather and Marks and Spencer has dried leaving salty residue in the wrinkles of my arches. I walked around the shop for £7.80 an hour and stacked refrigerated Bangers’n’Mash ready-meals for the pleasure. And it really is a pleasure. I wake up and I have rules to follow. Boring? Yes, I mean, of course not. There’s a plan in place, work til you die, there’s a plan in place. Amen.
But I’ll shower later, I’m tired right now. That’s fine, isn’t it?
No! You know what happened last time.
But I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.
What happened last time? Last summer, I didn’t wash for a week or so. Didn’t cut my nails for 2 months. By the time my tenancy ran out, I returned home with the right side of my big toe green, simmering with pus, caused by some charming pathogen which had nestled itself under the distal edge then sauntered down to the paronychium one Tuesday afternoon, found a wound and got stuck in. Geezer. Opportunist. Loveable rogue, a former me would have said. Before I came home, my Dad told me I couldn’t walk around with an infected toe all day and that I needed to sort it out and he was definitely right. Saying that, I was sad as I evicted the septicity with a sterilised needle. My eyes winced in agony – the pathogen obviously didn’t know any better. I said this to my Dad whilst he watched another episode of Time Team (I know he doesn’t even like it, he told me) but he just looked at me, bewildered, as if to say “I can’t wait til you start work.”
I cried when I left my house in Peckham. It was the first time I had properly moved out and I was as fascinated in its ecosystem as I am in Charles Darwin or Immanuel Kant. I was, and I suppose I still am, a gentrifier and I found ample company in the themed bars and gutted pubs of SE15. A white, lower-middle-class grammar-school-boy with ambitions beyond my semi-detached childhood and quasi-intellectual interests in the arts and sciences. All the art school kids had silly haircuts and silly clothes and silly ideas but were all validated by each other, contextualised by their sheer number. We were all children of Tony Blair’s pluralist social policy, education, education, education, and our conversations harmonised with the scream of bus tires and the clink-clank of construction. Gone was the smell of pollen for the nose-hair singeing whiffs of petrol. Gone were palms covered in soil for fingers soiled by Zone-2 grime and nicotine.
“Typical honky,” I used to hear the Caribbean women whisper. They would hand me leaflets imploring me to repent before the Lord takes me and the hymns of the Pentecostal church on my road would waft down hungover Sunday mornings: give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, give me oil in my lamp, wretched white man. This is the new racism, the Peckham apartheid. We came over here by the boatload in the 50’s, promised new jobs and new money and new hope. And what are we? The maligned black working class, forgotten in Le Corbusier’s tower blocks, left in the hands of poverty and the National Front. Repent. Repent. Work. Repent.
No. I will not, I said. I was obstinate. I would not get a job. I was recently free by my subsumption into London’s engineering. I was a punk made of cogs and springs and blood and thunder. Anarchy in the U.K. Fuck you. There’s a swear word. Here’s another one, cunt, the worst one, hahaha, spouted from my mouth which masticated burgers and fried chicken and the insides of my cheeks, slurped and burped beer and vodka and vomit. Hahahah. I laughed like a nutter at everything and all the time. My cackles and shrieks chuntered down the streets like the traffic, threatening never to end. And I thought they never will.
And then they did. And then they did. You ever see that advert about gambling where it says “when the fun stops, stop.”? Yeah, um, I didn’t listen to adverts. I didn’t listen to anyone. By the end, I didn’t have anyone to listen to. My housemates and I would potter about wordlessly. We’d sit stewing in summer’s hot breath, watching superhero blockbusters on our sofa with, at most, a grunt of recognition or a snort of mild amusement. Wow, Superman can fly fast. Wow, Spiderman is so flexible. How does he get into that suit? His bum looks so pert. I wish my bum was pert. Ambition seeks its targets where it can. I wish I was as strong as the hulk. I wish I could save the day.
Ambition reflects those things which you lack. I know this because we didn’t have days, we didn’t have nights. We had the time when the sun was out and then when the sun wasn’t as according to the rotation of the earth. Dawkins would be proud of our reductionism, exacerbated by the arrogance of youth. The immortality of youth. And what do immortals do? They suckle out the lager which saturates beer mats, they smoke a 40s in a day and curl in a ball, they kick a ball round the park, they fuck people they shouldn’t do, they listen to techno, they wank til their shaft blisters, they scroll through memes on Facebook, they do it all again, they don’t shower, they’re bored, they’re bored, they want finitude. Ambition reflects those things which you lack.
As I travelled back to the suburbs, I cried. As I sat in the car waiting to leave, the Pentecostal church warbled “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, give me oil in my lamp, I pray.” I regretted what I didn’t do so I suppose I regret nothing. I guess it was grief. I guess I was mourning the death of boredom, like I would a deceased uncle who never remembered my name. May God bless his soul. This was Old Testament sacrifice. May God give me oil in my lamp as long as He promises to stop my burning one day.
 I use the Anglican terminology, of course.
 That’s the end part of the nail which can overhang the finger. I know that because I did A Level Biology. I got an A.
 That’s the soft bit around the edge of the nail. Ibid.