Saturday, 7 November 2009

BOTTOM [a collection of 17 poems]

i) Little Cheesecake...
ii) Today Again
iii) The Man Below the Woman Above
iv) A Bad Day, But Not at the Office
v) Job Centre Interview
vi) The Damp Room
vii) Song For the Unemployed
viii) Call That Life?

viiii) The Long Hike to the End
x) One Last Time
xi) Crack-Chav Scum
xii) Little Cheesecake in a Pub
xiii) What, No Mates?
xiv) Hard Man
xv) Bad Trip
xvi) Tell the Truth
xvii) Prayer To My Landlord

i) Little Cheesecake...

... was his little friend… or not.
She often came hungry to his flat.
Smoking hard on a discarded fag.
Then she took his money, lager, drugs.
And gave him sod-all back.
She took his na├»ve trust…no!
She gave him one thing: a little street-wisdom.
Did she use him good?
Was there an atom-sized speck of love on her sponging heart?
Could he have known? Did he want to know?
Yet he liked her... loved her, perhaps.
The why of his love? Scrutiny would kill it.

One evening, hand almost in hand (discretion still ruled),
They walked the streets to a pub that stank like a pub.
Its customers were easy-come-easy-go.
(Who needs hygiene when the booze’s cheap?)
Once in the dark pub, she dripped methadone spit into a dead beer-glass.
Then, in an acute silence by a jukebox, she fell to a stupor.
She spited the R ‘n’ B’s sleaze ejaculated into her glitzless truth.
The wasted woman’s lower lip and jaw hung down.
In silence, too, he sat beside her - deep in cutting shame.
The others didn’t notice the out-of-it lass, or the fool’s embarrassment.
Then her boyfriend came with a Gallagher swagger.
He’d heard, on the junk-vine, his woman was straying with a bloke small-enough to sort out.
Out came his feeble blade.
He fought with the smackhead strength needed to grab needed stuff.
Off she went with her man.
She’d often, in distinction, spun a line to the fool still in the pub: “He thinks he owns me.”
But the strutting friend did own her… more or less.
And this, to her, didn’t matter… much.
He was her foulmate.
Her extra rotten hand.
And, most of all, her trusted pusher.
So compassion man stayed on his sad tod.
Alone but for his soothing frustrations.

Was this drugged-up girl his own Mills and Boon whore?
Did he want to better her?
To show her the right way to a better world?
But his world wasn’t hers. And her world wasn’t his.
Was he patronizing or humoring her?
He saw himself, in some way, as her superior.
He didn’t look straight down at her;
Just like the drug workers who take parental charge of our waifs and strays.
Surely he thought himself better!
Even when he hid it from her credulous mind and his own self-protecting veil.
He knew well the truth of his sponger’s less-than-rosy truth.
Fuck no! Compassion and care aren’t proxies for love.
He must have known his true-love to be sick-love.
Known that all true-love is sick-love.

ii) Today Again

He woke to their return from work.
Lay there, in life’s clever time-killer,
All swaddled in blankets: the easy means to snuff out each day.
The curtains blocked out the light. The blankets; the rest.

Another day to line up with the rest.
Lined up since his loss.
Now forward into old age.
Day after insipid day merged like wave into feeble wave.

No vision.
No hope.
No new day for him.

Is it today again?

iii) The Man Below the Woman Above

At first, the man, in the flat beneath the young woman’s flat above,
Thought her screams, howls and deep sobs
Nothing but the signs of a couple in sick-love.
And the same for the banging and the furniture flying.
They rowed violently at least once a day – without fail.
Perhaps, he thought, she was the type, and he, too, was the type,
Who believes sick-love must be proven allover.
Must be written on walls with blood.
Must be shown by the obsessive possessiveness of one to the other,
And the other to the one.
These things simply overtured the make-ups;
Just as the make-ups overtured the rows.

The man, below the wild woman above, began taking notes.
He placed them neatly in his mental jotter.
Soon he noted that her man was silent when hell was let loose.
Only her screams could be heard.
The boyfriend, a well-known pusher-about-town,
Stayed strangely silent during her eruptions.

The man, below the woman above, concluded that she was mad – plain mad.
He’d formerly believed, as before, that the rows were but rituals of true sick-love – which never died.
Now he thought (each time she screamed as if Death was having her):
She’s having her mad half hour!
He thought this each time she methodically, in her madness, smashed her flat as if her prison.

The voyeur, below the observed above, now understood the mayhem he daily endured.
Her manic tantrums were much more than the feeble affectations of a couple in ordinary sick-love.
Her spooky howls were as if Satan, Death now gone, was inside her.
As if he was ripping her drugged-up soul apart.
Did Satan want her hidden parts?
To take them back to his more-perfect Hell?

iv) A Bad Day, But Not at the Office

He felt a less-than-nothing most days.
A pimple on the earth’s arse.
Facedown in excrement not even his own.
Hidden in a pile of faces - stacked up with nothing to say.
A screaming irrelevance. Pointless and pathetic.
Yes! Oh dear me, Yes!

On the streets the crowd drowned him in its mass of flesh.
Loners, too, chew him with suspicious eyes.
Only to spit him out into a pavement bin.

His madness? Predictable. Or so say I.
He lived off the live-end between the psychiatrist’s concerned finger and thumb.
He begged it for recognition. To know him; in some small way.
He thought: I, me, myself. But not in those words.
He cried: A suck? A suck! But not in those words.
To suck on a the droopy breast of any community going.

Self-loathing consumed him. Became his cognitive All.
It controlled with its tempting words.
With the shelter it gave his skeletal frame.
The birth-mother of his stupid stupefaction.

v) Job Centre Interview

He is the enemy knocking at the door.
She scowls an ugly scowl at him.
He is the fraudster. The scrounger. The cheat.
He is work-shy. Good-for-nothing. Lazy.

She takes his name, rank and NI number.
Then programs him into the computer.
Here is his life, in all its inglorious detail.
She scours the screen intensely.

Her rudeness is unabashed … he is the enemy. Remember?
The robotic spiel begins. Devoid of sympathy or charm.
He has wound this machine up…
He is warned… and warned again.
Do this, and that will happen.
Do that, and this will happen.
His head swirls.
His brain closes down.
But he can see her lips move.
Her scowl is absurd...
She has sat there, day after day, reciting these lines.
No wonder he thinks her a bitch.

vi) The Damp Room

Lightly, spores float on breeze around the damp room.
They take root, at will, on the leprous walls.
There they sprout ears thirsty for soggy air.

Each time these squatters plaster the walls with their tan flesh,
They’re simply laying down the landlord’s Damp Law.

vii) Song For the Unemployed

As the two-week life of his dying dole withered to disappear,
He had one last go at making the most
Of the food waning in the cupboard.
He tried to be deaf to the bank’s loud calls.
And tried to be blind to the yellowing bills,
Unburned in the fireless fireplace.

viii) Call That Life?

Call that living?
Call that life?
Lying there. Low. Low down.
Staring at the walls that imprison him
In a basement of self-willed seclusion.

He grinds his teeth until alive with electric pain.
Cuts his arms to rub out the misery.
The mind is focused on the pain’s strange beauty.
Each cut - an artist’s stroke on flesh canvass.
The creation dribbles down to the ground.
Red is a life-affirming colour!

Why won’t someone save him?
Why won’t someone drag him into a better world?
He thinks others have a better deal. He’s often right.
God has overlooked a man hidden in a basement.
He looks up at the others - full of living:
How dare you laugh just because you have life?
When my misery lives in this hole, too far below you?
He wants to pull the whole world down to his level - so he can interact with it on his own terms.

He has dragged his body through many lethargic days.
And over many insomniac nights.
And when rarely outside, like a slug, he leaves his slime on all – it’s his calling card.
The slime of his being is his proof that he hasn’t the prize of a real life.

viiii) The Long Hike to the End

How about a song? You know, that song of the world, the life I never lived in. Never lived.
Never came close!
This world… This one, right here, right now, is my world. Is mine…

It’s been such a long time. I know nothing of anything else.
But now’s no time for envy.
There’s so little time and so little to do.
I’ve forgotten that song anyway. But I’ll sing on, regardless….

My muscles are tightening. But then I am flesh and blood.
The clouds are darkening. I’m getting there!
Who’s going to see me off? Hello? Hello? Anyone there?
If there’s anyone with a memory of me, think only of the good things; if they were any good things.
Perhaps they’ve gone too…..
No. It’s only me. Always the solitary I. The one for-himself and with-himself…….

I’m alone.
Always have been, alone. Always.
Will be till this coming end.……..

I’m flooding in pissing rain!
A dog? A dog! A goodbye sniff ‘n’ lick, perhaps?
No. He’s off into tomorrow.
Me? I’m off too. Slowly - within the mist of my final fling……….
This final fling.

I refuse, now, to sing that fucking song of the life I never lived; the world I never lived in!
Never came close to living; or living in. Never came close.

The rain: will it end? When I end? Will I end? Will I? I will……….
My body’s going.
The striving’s ending.
The long hike to the end is all butover. Soover………..
Butover in this filthy pool.
Still struggling on to that cherished end. That comforting end. Sweet yes!…………

Now it’s me; only me; myself, I…………
My eyes are shutting…………. Body’s now ending. Nearly gone………….
Heart’s ………….. stop……………..ping……………..
I’m………………. gone.

x) One Last Time...

... and then one more last time.
He won't give up.
He can't give up.
He gave up, once, with giving up
When he realised one couldn't give up.

So he'll stride a madman's stride into the future's concrete wall.
His head will bleed on each blow.
But Hope shall remain.
As it always did.
Hope thought it a friends of the friendless man.
So it stayed once again.
As it always did.
Always will.
Always must.

That his bone and solid flesh could match this solid wall.
To break on through to the possible world which waits on the other side...
That must be waiting.

He never gives up.
He can't give up.
One last time.
Then many more last times.
Until the day comes when the last time is past, not future.

How many hits can a mind take?
How many deadends?
It takes what it has to take.
And what it takes it tells itself to take.
And it takes anything and everything.
All must be taken.

What could his life have been?
Great and good in the old style?
Perhaps, somewhere, his possible future is as actual as the rase in his pants is actual.

There must be a world, somewhere, at which his likeness, at least,
Is a someone.
What does his match do?
He does everything!
But fuck his dreams!
It's as if they exist in perfect ignorance of their dreamer,
His life, and his sad, concrete world.

xi) Crack-Chav Scum

They are just fucking scum!
I’m sorry, but that’s what I think.
I may be wrong to think that.
But that’s what I think.
And why is it wrong to think that?
These people are, after all, fucking scum.
So why can’t I tell the truth about them?
Nothing much? No. Nothing!

They all sat around, in their filthy flat, sniffing and sucking their fucking crack.
Thinking badly. Acting badly.
Thinking and acting just like their fellow crack-chavs.
These people would mug their mothers for a tiny bit of crack.
Did the crack make them scum?
Or were they crack-chavs because they were scum?
I, for one, could never imagine any of them
Being in any way different to what they are right now.
Are there some drug-takers who aren’t reduced to scumitude?

xii) Little Cheesecake in a Pub

She is the victim’s victim.
When others see her, they see a victim.
When she sees herself, she sees a victim.
She was bred a victim.
Nurtured a victim.
Sad really.

She tells her story to a lad who doesn’t care -
Or doesn’t understand enough to care.
She carries on in spite of the lad’s eyes flashing towards fitter skirt.

She moves on to the next man.
He is burdened from the start.
At first he shrugs his shoulders.
But too soon becomes annoyed.
Fuck off, you sad silly bitch!
Go and eat someone else’s ear off.

This outburst didn’t hurt her.
She’d been hurt too much for that.
Instead, like a true victim, she carried on telling her story
To a man who’d now quite happily kill her.

xiii) What, No Mates?

Alone in a pub again.
Looking for friends again.
Not friends he has, but friends he needs.

No one sees him. Not even a glance.
Is he invisible?
I can see him.
I can see his loneliness intensify as their fun intensifies.

He drinks his way to stupidity.
He numbs the embarrassment.
Pint after pint then feeds familiarity.
This is how the pub bore is born.
Whose drunken courage is inflicted on the innocent.

‘What, no mates?’ is the accusation, sarcastically delivered.
The accusation stings.
Is it a sin to be alone?
His short-lived courage deflates, visibly,
As he skulks off to his corner
To be comforted by his liquid friend and the TV.

xiv) Hard Man

Alone.
Another day.
Another work-out.
He's forging the hard-man's form
By breeding muscles with sweat,
Innuring his body and mind
Ready for the next blow.

Each dumb-bell lift and sweated press bring him joy through strength.
The muscles are his means.
The gym mirror says, You have not failed.
And peach-smooth pectorals, in oil,
Glint purchased body-tan brown
Like appreaciating eyes.

Before his body had been pumped into the shape of self-respect
His other skills were deemed expendable.
Fifteen years of loyal slog
Rewarded with the gift of a thousand days' idleness -
Just too many days for his body to sag,
His mind to wilt.

Now the flesh-machine has new-found skills
Which no vandal can wreck or ruin.
Like clay to pot, his body hardens to the task.
Brittle-stiff, it aches to crack.

xv) Bad Trip

The dark world smoothers him.
He can see nothing else.
Oh Christ! What a world!
Heap upon heap of unimaginable cruelties.
Interminable deaths.
No respite from tomorrow’s sunlight.
Only the overpowering sense of the senselessness of it all.
Absurdity within absurdities.
Absurdity stacked upon absurdity,
Till absurdity itself tells its own truth.
Take just one atom-sized death
Among the dunghill of another million deaths.
Then praise the Lord.
The world’s face is too much to observe.

xvi) Tell the Truth

He sits and observes the rabble.
Contempt fills his mind.
He sits and observes; so doesn’t join in.
He’s in a glass cage looking out.
He analyses, rather than dances and laughs.
A sense of superiority shrouds him.
He feels guilty about this feeling.
He has tried for years to be at one with the Other.
He has failed and failed again.
His many attempts don’t quite fit.
The Other’s clothes always hang loose.
He feels clumsy. Fake.
So he drinks more, and more; buying himself oneness with the Other.
That still doesn’t work.
He still doesn’t fit.
No one’s interested.
No one gives a shit about what makes him superior.
He has the badge of difference.
He wears it wherever he goes.
Without it he is nothing.
It’s the only thing he’s got.

The truth: a rationalisation of his aloneness.
He needs to make sense of it.
Why else would people ignore him?
Not because of his superiority.
Because of his inferiority.
Deep down, under the shit and the booze,
That’s what he too believes.

xvii) Prayer to My Landlord

Landlord, you live and you breathe money.
It is the cardinal point of your life.
You squeeze it like blood from your tenants.
Wealth is the haemoglobin in your veins.

He says his own nightly prayer:
Tax-free deductible savings account
With a minimum of surcharge on the premiums security. Amen.
Then he masturbates with a ten-pound note;
Feeling its crisp coolness gently tug at his cock.
Then he sleeps, snug and satisfied.

Aktar, Lord of the Inner-City Manor,
I’m nothing but your humbled vassal.
But I hate you, landlord.
Hate your contrived cordiality.
That small-talk - the void between door and wallet.

Yet I still get tales of his hard times.
I still shed a tear or two.
Oh, poor Mr Landlord, please take some more!

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