‘A Sweet Disorder’
Pardon my sarong. I’ll have a Shirley Temple.
Certainly, sir. Do you want a cherry with that?
I guess so. It’s part of it, isn’t it?
Words! It is the words, isn’t it, that are increasingly hard to believe in. Without terminal humor (sic) that is – the above lines come from the beginning of a new poem by John Ashbery (age 88), and are published in his latest collection Breezeway, of which a New York critic writes: “The poems anticipate death but hold it off—they filibuster—by transfiguring it into comic forms.”
Harry Kratchnikov was nowhere to be seen but then deep in the Snigger Space with men beyond fifty, if not MB50, this wasn’t a history lesson either.
Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and I was being roughed up. Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and Dio and Trixie were being roughed up by an older man – and one old enough to know better – a monk no less in a sarong or something like it…
…The monk was about thirty silent yearswordstalk. He sat in a chair. Dio and Trixie sat side by side facing him. He spoke. They listened. No answering back. No cherry on offer either.
Afterwards Trixie said that she was not amused by this capacity men have to take themselves so seriously, and that there was no mistaking this marketplace:
Ignorance? You don’t know the meaning of the word, he said. Hardships. Trixie winced at the hard line of his bony jaw. And above it his burnt face and lips. Years and years in the outback.
You don’t know what hardship is, he said.
He spoke like a man stood at a bar, a bar where Dio couldn’t find a place to stand. Dio was hearing one thing, but seeing something else altogether. Cold anger swept up his spine. Was that meant to be a mistake for love he thought. Love? That’s a dirty Word. That’s a really dirty Word mate.
He went on and on, poking each one of his words into Dio’s softy soft belly.
Y’are not hardcore at all are yer? He said.
Try some kind of middle position between Love and Hate then: Did you get over the beatings eventually?
You’re fucked mate, he might as well have said. Go down.
A hot dusty wind. Bare arms.
What he was saying was rubbish. Sheepshearer, outback nonsense. Round and round it went, birth after rebirth, life after life, and every word filled with misery. He’d have looked as good with a beaten mongo hat and red-brown with outback dirt.
Only that Sunday afternoon there was no beer on tap, and despite where he’d come from being hellish hot and sweaty, Jeepers, here it was cold, not hot. Still he wasn’t about to get soft putting on extra clothes. Over his brown sarong or whatever he liked to call it.
Sure it was madness. Nonsense talk, every word rubbish. Taunting Dio to step up. Toe to toe. Yea, he’d probably even let you land a few punches, just to draw you in even further. Then PkoomPhoom out cold, flat on your back.
Easier ways to get there, Trixie said guiding Dio towards the exit.
Sure it was madness. Thirty crazy years too long stood staring at the sun.
Holy Men, I ask you, Trixie said.
But the bitter sense of what he had said was not missed on them.
A Sweet Disorder.