Thursday, April 30, 2015


Seizing the bull
by the horns
smacks of molestation
me and mine
in the sawdust
the ring
nøstrils rusted
feints and salts
guacamole slants
a smell of greasepaint
moustaches postachio
the run

Friday, April 24, 2015


Zip-a-Dee-Fucking-Doo-Dah. The road stirs early. Caught unawares by three uninterrupted mornings of cloudless skies. Our "Song of the South". Scrabbling over what remains of the ramparts. Hadrian's Wall.
     There is some delay before I hurl back the curtains. Time enough to pad about in twilight still. Two cigarettes spinning a tarry veil. Pinned in tatters from the ceiling.
     The fat fuck upstairs has his television howling once again. Scenes of impending accident. Narration. The ominous machine gun vertigo on the top of the hour.
     I dance about in my undershorts and paw the switch on the kettle. At fifty it is the only thing I can be sure of turning on. Tarnished white goods. Electrical appliances faltering on the menopause, the plimsoll line, running low on juice.
    Scarcely enough to brown my bread.
    I splash water on my face and check my teeth. Junk mail drops through my letterbox. I step on my son's toy laser pistol and shoot myself in the foot.
    The telephone rings. Just as I am taking a shit.
    The missing part for my outstanding washing machine repair has arrived. Three weeks after the engineer has been and gone. I am less than elated.
    The air, when I finally step out in it, is unseasonably warm. I am accustomed to snow showers this time of year. On the tails of the Augusta Masters, its green jacket. Instead, I am decked out in t-shirt and cargo shorts. Every inch the caddy. My balls have wizened in their elastic casings. Their bounce has all but perished. I lack the drive to hit the fairway off the pin; the short game is all that is left to aspire to.
     The red bicycle has still not fucking moved.
     Its spoke are not spokes, I no longer believe, but cobwebs. Spiders its gears. It is not a bicycle, it is the mirage of the promise of movement. An optical illusion. The vestige of psychosis.
     The fat man upstairs, too, is an auditory hallucination. The neighbours below merely trolls.
     And I am not quite fifty. I went to sleep on a tab one night. I am still plumping up the pillow.
     When I sleep I do not soar or descend like a pterodactyl. I plummet into glass as a starling on Largactil. A mouse chewed up by Mandrax. I smear the sides of buildings, detonate on tiles to raise the slumbering. I am Syd. I am Sid. You better fucking believe it. Puck in engineer boots, bloated beyond recognition. Whipping this way and that on leather cuffs. Pricked full of needles, a crocheted shawl. An owl spitting thorny pellets.
     Oh well.
     All around they are dropping like flies. I do not care for eulogies.
     A verse here. A drone there. The best things in life are fleeting.
     "I am a fucking mad cunt," the mad cunt downstairs informs the house. "And I want my fucking jacket. Right now."
     I have no antidote.
     "You fucking belter!" he screams. His nag has come home.
     The mad cunt has started singing again. Off key, as always. Half out of the saddle. Jockeying for the note.
     He is so proud of the house which is not his own. It prompts him to file for divorce.
     "I don't care. I don't care," he stumbles. "This is a fucking bought house."
     I light a cigarette. I drain my glass. I belch and scratch out a new paragraph.
     I am only glad that I have enough cigarettes to see out the afternoon into the evening. Beyond. This is not a bought house. It is rented. The only house worth investing in is a lighthouse. Derelict. Aloof. Encircled by nothing save shipwrecks. Gulls. The detritus of bankrupted lords.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


The sun is surely shining. If I lean out my window I can see it striking off the brick and glass across the street. A yellow phosphorous nagging. Marginally out of reach beyond that band of shadow dividing the road. The grass verge eaten into by chimney pots.
     I sit in the shade and digest my share of a pizza. Count out those cigarettes remaining in the pack.
     It is the tenement year.
     A scraping of violin. An unchaperoned burst of tuba. Nothing much to write home about.
     At five minutes past two in the afternoon our closest star is already in decline. The red bicycle still chained to the railing.
     Truant children whimper in the stairwell. Spilling soft drinks where hands stretch out to brace against a tumble. Clutching at knees.
     The phone rings. A woman in South Africa tries to sell me home insurance. Failing that, unlimited access to a sports channel. I am not interested. After three minutes of meaningless exchange she finally throws in the towel. I hang up and make myself a coffee. Smoke another cigarette. Watch a fly writhe and expire one inch below the lip of my cup.
    At a quarter past three I sit down at my desk and stroke some keys.
    Characters stutter and dance like an epileptic stepping off death row. A capital sentence commuted.
    I give up and smoke another cigarette. Hang out the bedroom window long enough to give myself a headache. Dragged under by the weight of elephants, I resolve to strike out for the corner shop to find a cure.
    Too much jazz pulls on the stem of my second glass. Clifford Brown. Max Roach.
    I hanker after the need to destroy nostalgia. To burn up the celluloid of a Fred Quimby animation, torture the tomcat over a paladin lamp.
    I turn up the music and listen mostly to the protests of my neighbours downstairs. Naked hostility radiates up through the floorboards. Someone has a joint going nicely. The pungent stink of it bleeds between the cracks. I don't begrudge them their high, of course, but their idiocy is another matter. I am an intolerant divorcé. A singular misanthrope. All day long they bitch and whine and cackle. It is impossible not to follow a conversation word for word unless one plugs in earbuds. Or wrestles catatonia. At night it is worse. Every imbecility amplified until one surrenders to sleep with their pipe still lit. If I owned a shotgun I'd blow every fucker away and face the consequences. The music, as they say. The music. That anyone can confront a life sentence devoid of song is something beyond me. Stripped of warbling. The need to bend sinister. I would sooner slit my throat than succumb to the unending dirge of the mentally impaired.
     I return to the bedroom window and see I have driven them out onto the back court.
     They are joined by my next door neighbour's thirty-three year old son. He has returned to reclaim his ancestral throne. To live once more with mother. His partner left him after he was bitten behind the ear by a hatchet. They say the next blow might fell him permanently. I am busy analysing the odds. He thinks this is his parish. He does not care for me, my presence here next door. I caught him one night. Peering through my kitchen window. I do not care for thieves. Although I do not mind his brothers.
     "Sure is a nice day," I say to my son.
     "What ?" he says. Closes the door on my face.
     I peek in on him two hours later and find him lost in music. The headphones stuffing up his ears.
     At a quarter past six precisely, I find I am still plumbed into the mainframe. I have all but wasted another day and nothing to show for it but this numbing woeful bilge on the bleachers. I go for a piss and see in the mirror my hair standing up on end like Travis Bickle. Uptight. Glued. It is time I got it cut. It is time I put away my toys and learned to live a little. It is time I got myself a dog.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The lesbians across the street are not pretty. They appear to be happy enough, embracing each other by way of greeting. Exchanging goodbyes. On the veranda just outside their front door; the balcony, if one is given to theatrical bent.
     Some time ago the smaller woman's brother attempted to hurl her over the ledge in the dead of the night. Their screams woke me on the sofa. I did not immediately rush to the window, but lay there smoking a cigarette. Listening to the invective through acts one to three. What sounded like a shoe bouncing off the roof of a parked car.
     The next morning, a neighbour filled me in on the detail. Bagging the last of the rolls in the corner shop while I waited in line for cigarettes.
     There is nothing to beat the Scottish morning roll. Where English baps are sweet and unsavoury, their breakfast counterpart north of the border is something altogether more substantial. The Scottish roll demands one's full attention. A firm grip, should the mouth be built on dentures.
     "He'll not be back," my neighbour informed me.
     He was back with a suitcase two days later. A plastic sack full of 12oz cans.
     Blood is thicker than water. Piss. The Scottish family, the clan, is robust as its roll, enfolding all manner of mortification. Forgoing admission of guilt.
     I do not like it living here on the second floor. I can't see the river. The sky. Back and front, I am confronted with windows set in brick. The flinching of bodies under surveillance. Straying too close to the glass.
     This city was built on tobacco. The sweat of slaves.
     Cancer is its legacy.
     I do not subscribe to the concept of original sin. I began smoking out of boredom. Like all junkies I am a slave to the fix.
     Apples are for fruits.
     The fat man up the stairs rouses at four in the morning and sets his television to a blare. By nine he is back in bed. His routine is unfaltering. The floorboards wince and shriek under his weight. The ceiling all but bulges. He does not smoke. He does not appear to drink excessively. The soundtrack to his slow demise is constructed around reruns from the decade which oversaw the collapse of the shipyards. The music in him died the year the needle broke on its arm. He wears a Led Zeppelin t-shirt when he ventures out on the stair, but his ear is bludgeoned and misshapen from its diet of ersatz fodder. He no longer possesses a turntable on which to exorcise his ghosts. His father is all but eaten up by Alzheimer's. He has not been the same since senility came cold calling. Before they took him away his mind scampered here and there like infant mice.
      The family below do not like music either but are drawn to hectoring one another in bullish tones. Bickering incessantly as Scottish families will. The endless droning sets what remains of my teeth on edge. It follows me from room to room. Drilling into my skull like a wood boring beetle.
      "Cokeheads." Another neighbour chimes in.
      The soundproofing is deplorable.
      I like the noise of the rain when it comes. Sweeping onto the windows. Spitting under the eaves.
      On days when it is especially bad, I stand erect as Noah. Stripped of oilskin. The will to preserve. Protect. Let it come down, I demand.
      Sentinel in socks.
      Oh, where have you been, my one true love? Riding on your truncheon.
      At fifty, I am too old to be a father comfortably to a four-year-old. His face unmarred yet by accident, his confidence undented. I am missing those attributes I think of as prerequisite. I am abashed by my inadequacy.
     Well. It was not always like this. At least I still nurse a sense of humour. Under the scabs. The brown paper bag. The glare of white light which passes for summer. It is not as if I have entirely misplaced my marbles. Too bad I could not keep it together long enough to drive out the crow.
     The hangover.
     My ex-wife shows me where her teeth were whitened. I have no inclination to congratulate her.
     Not that the bird is all bad, you understand, it is just the dribbling jaundice which pulls at the space vacated by heart. That cavity presided over by gulls. I no longer see what I hope to achieve by my persistent lurking on the bleachers.
      The space from my front door to the highest seat of learning measures no more than two miles. It is all but unbridgeable. I have burnt them all down. If I possessed a working gun, the elemental sophistry of a Burroughs or Thompson, I might have eaten the barrel years ago. Fortunately, I loiter under the elastic tension of a slingshot merely. The impotency of a projectile launched at midget Goliaths.
     I am listening right now to the chatter of cretins scratching out a life sentence. The fucking inanity of imbeciles dressing up for high tea. Stop me if you've heard this one before. One pornographer to another.

Monday, April 6, 2015

a bank holiday

The bank holiday view from the living room window just two floors up converges on a red bicycle. It has been chained to the railing for the past three weeks. Nothing much changes from hour to hour this close to the ground.
     Garbage stacked tidily on the pavement drifts out of position only according to the weather. The vagaries of northerly winds. Booted feet scuffling after a runaway ball.
     The old neighbourhood was different.
     Another twenty tiers on the cake dramatically affects what the eye detects.
     Delivers cinéma vérité where pizza peddlers fear to tread, snapping gang fight to amorous clinch and all manner of collisions in between. The buoyancy of REM sleep. While those same winds gust and pluck on the glass like a suction cup on contact lenses. Elevated to gales.
     My city is the capital of knife crime. Often, swords are preferred. Machetes.
     Here and now, the walls hem one in. Out. The act of walking to the corner shop for cigarettes is stepping into a narrowed artery more claustrophobic than high rise living. One goes where the blood coagulates, where the air is sucked out the fats. Only venturing that far hand in hand with my young son seems to raise my spirit. Of course, I am a contrary motherfucker. Easily given to nostalgia. Maudlin in my cups.
     The old neighbourhood had its disadvantages.
     I waited in this morning for a washing machine repair while my boxer shorts stank up the drum. The bearings had not gone. Though I might well have lost mine. The older I get, the shorter the sentences. The grammar has always been suspect.
     The washing machine has ruptured on its cycle. The fast spin. While I am covered, and the cost of a new drum exceeds that of a brand new machine, they will sooner repair it than replace it. Well. It has been a good machine all those years. Reliable. I can not grudge it shelter under the sink.
     My next door neighbour has already lost her toes. She will not stop smoking either, electing instead to play out her hand with taciturn defiance. The odds favour Osborne. Death by a thousand cuts. Austere, in the end, as a bonfire fanned by an Afghan rabble.
     The doctors dispense minor repairs while sharpening stainless steel blades.
     We are all of us short on breath. The eloquent river dried up several general elections ago. Blistering in puddles. We talk on in staccato extracts from the past, abridged to the point of severing all definition. Wincing through it like yellow cats soaking up the nicotine. Pissing away identity while successive governments reinvent entire populations bereft of skills.
     My city is the murder capital of what remains the United Kingdom. Sadly. Harking back to old contested family ties.
     Do not get me wrong. It is a bank holiday. That is still something.
     A reason to uncork a bottle. Unscrew the cap, if one has insufficient means. A reason to get pissed without the attendant Presbyterian guilt of the regular working week, the clocking on and off of the respectably pious. One may even start on a bottle with the curtains flung wide open. Inebriation is the norm.
     Later, conceivably, I may sashay forth from my domicile. I will navigate dog turds to sniff out some bank holiday sunshine. A dose of vitamin D to counteract the toxins. I might even make it so far as the park. To look on young women exercising animals off the leash, a handful of more elderly persons working their way to a close through the proverbial afternoon tipple. A litter of bottles and cans in plastic bags. I will smoke a cigarette or two and carefully dispose of the butts. Like the decent motherfucker I am.
     And I will return in time to hanker after living in a basement as I did decades before. The 22nd floor not so long ago. All the while grieving after my failing gums; the muscle turned to lard. Stronger than dirt.