a pub

I spy with my little eye something beginning with an ending
“Alright mate I’ll have a short to start my long unwinding”
Dropped glass, through which 3D footie tv beams are bending
Red white and blue and blue, i’m blue, the booth’s leather is unbinding
I sniff with my little snout the stench of unused promises
The condom machine is clogged like my head, the stale latex rots
Huddled locals dream of sun, sea and love, like me, dumb solipsists
But I can’t escape, short unchanged, suffocate, bossman keep the windows locked
Jukebox is on repeat, 77 chic, punks not dead, or so I’m taunted
Or so we’re damned, perhaps I should hope too, “excuse me mate, wheres the loo?”
Branded on the toilet cakes, The Queens Head is flaunted,
She tries battle with the stink. She’ll lose, but I suppose it’s something to do
Something to sense
Time’s passed in the present tense
Another one please
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38 miles south of las vegas

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

entertainment –

liars

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

liars, liars

Thankyou for visiting Whiskey Pete’s

Kids eat free from 10 til 3

Phoenix

My great-great grandmother was a suffragette
Out of the slime between my forefathers nicotined fingers which hoisted cargo round the imperial docks
Out of the calloused fingers which smelted iron into horseshoes and bent piping around the houses and factories of those with inside toilets
Those nobler classes
A screaming baby bird called me was shat out of my dilated mother
Smothered in amnion, sweat and blood which stuck like phlegm to my skin
Into a recently cleaned swaddling blanket with the remnant stench of shit and mud
I was cradled
Within the warm nest of parental sacrifice
Let’s move south into a semi
Sutton has the best schools in london
And whenever I called out for worms I was immediately fed shepherd’s pie, ham sandwiches and, at breakfast time, cornflakes with two stainless steel teaspoons of sugar
Grew taller and strong
Allowed to spread my wings around the space which the suburbs grant
In the corridors of grammar school and of larger houses in epsom and carshalton and wimbledon
Phwwoooaaar that feels good to stretch
Fly little baby, fly around bloomsbury, around UCL’s esteemed halls and seminar rooms where you’ll learn stuff and do us proud
Do yourself proud
Now I’m here
In an empty cuban bar in Angel
Flying with God’s chosen one’s drinking

pilsners

My feathers shimmering gold with the unashamed pride of a bachelors

Still, beats suet pudding and a low life expectancy

hero

and so, after three years, we reach the end of the chapter

Last night, in the pitch black darkness, some noble warrior saved my life
Armed with some glinting shiv
I saw that weapon’s glint and it stopped the panic attack I was having
And I learned to look for weapons which shine the same way a smile might,
the same way a beautiful painting might,
the same way familial love does,
the same way a melody dances the night away,
the same way a mirage shimmers in the desert.
But there’s always that thing with mirages,
I’ve learnt not to trust em,
You don’t know whether you’ve been saved until you walk all the way there,
It’s possible you wake up and “it’s all a dream”
– and then my hero would have still been the bottomless imaginings of a child
Nonetheless, how exciting eh?
You big old man, you
You know how to wash up dishes expediently
You know how to arrange your council tax bills
You know the going rate of rent prices in different areas of London
You know when to trust someone
You know not to drink and smoke too much
You know to take it slow with women, don’t rush it, don’t assume anything, let it grow organically
You know bad things happen sometimes
I can see it now:
A wife whom I adore
Some kids whom I love
A job at the BBC developing TV shows with my conscience intact, I got promoted from a lowly researcher
A nice house with a respectable collection of films and books and cd’s: philosophy, romcoms, action, politics, french noir, singalongs and existential explorations
Sometimes the end of the month is a bit of a squeeze but we’re doing alright,
Mum and Dad are coming over for Christmas and I’ll do em sprouts with bacon lardons
50% of marriages end in divorce
The biggest regret of people’s lives is that they work too hard
Eric Clapton publicly appreciated Enoch Powell
Weinstein is a creep, man
The biggest killer of young men is suicide
Depression is a chronic disease
Depression is a chronic disease
Nonetheless, how exciting eh?
You don’t know whether you’ve been saved until you walk all the way there,
It’s possible you wake up and “it’s all a dream”
But it’s possible you meet your hero

 

The Cataracts

I’ve become a man encrypted by filth
My mum would insist that she bathe me
I’m standing in front of the mirror
And see I’m too sullied for saving
My image tries boast “I’m a hieroglyph”
Instead betrays vulgar cliches
Plaque imagines my teeth as a buttress
Really, my jaw and my words rot away
Out of the back of my nose and mouth
Is the acrid drip of failed disco dreams
My skin vomits soft-pornography
Squealing iridescent from screens
But sometimes hope can only be blind
And love: a dagger’s stab through the black
So, in the dark, please, baby, soak my back
And I’ll damn my eyes with the cataracts, the cataracts

making a porno (2018)

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

Asphyxiate

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

Then apologises

He tells himself not to worry too much about the future

And that everything will work out for the best

religion and boredom and me

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[1]. 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.
Okay, fine.

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[2] then sauntered down to the paronychium[3] 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.

[1] I use the Anglican terminology, of course.

[2] 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.

[3] That’s the soft bit around the edge of the nail. Ibid.