Jun 022015
You and I Soapbox141

‘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:
Men only

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.
Ye bitch!
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.

May 122015
Street cleaners151

Remember Harry Krachtnikov? The weight of the man: slow paced, with a huge head and long thick strands of hair the colour of straw bursting out over his forehead and above and below his mouth.

Trixie and Harry walked arm in arm. Neither of them believed in fidelity, and the pavement might have been Italy. There was sunshine with an added blueness that comes from the reflection of a wide expanse of water. Sea, but also north. Adriatic: a jumping off point, and the shadow of the double-headed eagle. Trieste. Or a river. Danube.

The weight of the man. Pure history.

Harry carried the wrinkles, and there were speckles of dark sun spots on his ageing face. He was by far the older of the two but as they walked it was Trixie who was leaning harder on his arm. Dark glasses and a silk paisley-patterned head scarf, her chin raised as if light starved head tilted back.

People pressed around them. Always the crowd. Always the streets. The market-places. Raised voices. Wooden barrows. Stalls of abundant produce. Mountains of cardboard boxes, jute sacks, plastic bags. Rectangular sheets of newspaper trodden into the pavement, the jetsam of living green. Spilling over the curb. Flower petals floating in wetness. Awash.

The street cleaners were hosing clean.Viewed from below.

Trixie had eventually recovered her underpants.

After the unexpected excess of the weekend singing Bach, with men who mostly wanted to have a conversation with her. Not that was what they really meant. Though none of them would hurt a fly, polite and generous to a ‘T’. That most of the men were bentoverseventy and dribbled from their mouths didn’t make any difference. Their eyes that had undressed her. The bleak lower and bleaker lower eyelids. Then slowly her knickers had come off too. The menmen had regretted none of it. Pleasure of the chorale. So that even when it came to the doubled Motet she had acquiesced to their imperatives.

Nobody gets hurt really, Harry said. Even after bad sex.

Masks. Why did they wear masks? Trixie asked.

You are welcome to create as many versions as you like, he replied, But aren’t you forgetting Dio?

Dio the boy.

The man, Harry had said, Or the boy if you prefer.

Trixie had called him the boy too. Effeminate to the menmen. Queer.

Inter, inter, she said, Mid.

Mid. American or Atlantic. Or Europe. Mid-European. Was that right? Trieste. Or the river Danube.

Get hold of the stay, Harry said.

Harry had overouzo’ed too. Watermelonwithouzo. And old men always cry more anyway. Wet as the streets the cleaners had now finished hosing.

Another tendril of flower headstrundled by overhead. Harry -’ed and then steadied his eyes.

Business is brisk today, he said.

The worst man happened to be the one that Trixie had first sat next to at the very beginning. Old and small and harmless looking like the rest but with staring eyes. Unlike most of the menmen he had refused to talk.

Hello, Trixie had said but he had instantly looked away.

Once they started singing, she knew she was in trouble. Note metronomic perfect. Rows of red roses. Continuo – or continuity perhaps. His voice. Whatever, it represented the worst of a kind of heartlessromantic idea how all the menmen intended to live out the rest of their lives.

Cornered Trixie had lost her knickers. Picked off.

Apr 292015
Patient Endurance

Who says?

Men’s voices raised in argument, but that this was rhetoric hadn’t occurred to him before. Rhetoric – the word seemed to belong to a bygone age, of voices raised in sharp arguments, and adversarial set-piece speeches, and ornamentations and elegant phrases to divert and entertain, and of being in a court with clerics, men dressed in dark fur-lined robes and hats, who somehow could make claim to some all powerful authority and power, whether of Christendom or antiquity, culture, state religion, or law of the land – and of being on trial and the aim was to win.

Except this place in which these voices were shouting was a different kind of court where, however much the men wanted to, there didn’t seem to be the possibility of any winners. The place was open and smooth and rounded, and under a uniform bright light that erased every shadow, exposing everything as if in an undulating desert. The men’s raised voices blew like a wind, a shimmer of sound that made what was actually being said hard to hear. Hung out to dry the words blurred. The men’s mouths were opening and shutting on either side of the bar. Loud, rough words were jumping out, but they were travelling through the wrong medium, beached, like fish thrown up on some river sandbank after a flood, gasping for air.

The bar of course was public, a pub, and he had come in for a drink. Alcohol is such a wonder, he thought, except he knew he meant the exact opposite. The Cherries. Such is trial by irony. The pub was where the men often came first thing to get warm. From morning opening time until 11.am. there were free refills of tea of coffee, and the serious drinking didn’t start before mid-morning anyway.

It was nearly all men in the place today, scattered about in ones and twos on different tables. Deathly still. It was only the men at the bar whose voices were raised, and he guessed these were the ones who were still drunk from the night before. He took his drink and went to sit at a large round table in a corner as far from the shouting blur of words as possible. Two other men were sitting at the table he chose. Chat, he thought, where to begin.

Trixie always knew what to say. In Alternative Country she’d didn’t even have to sing it, she could just quietly say the words in her natural blue voice, and the way he heard it, the rhetoric, it always seemed to come out just right. So jump right in.

“Talking about a ‘D Word’ here”, she’d say. “That is ‘D’ for depression. Know what I mean?”

One of the two men at the table looked up, the other man kept on staring into his mug of tea.

“Lonesome? I ain’t asking you to tell me but be my guest if you do”.

Some might be of the opinion her Alternative Country belonged to the oldest profession on earth, and he wouldn’t deny her being young, and the way she spoke and looked, helped. And the way she dressed. You could call it provocative, but he kept telling himself that he didn’t think it was meant to be. Her voice was warm and it was gentle. And there was the promise of something wet on the air, so sometimes there were quickly tears.

Then she might laugh, and the men might laugh along with her. And sometimes she teased, but she never touched. She didn’t need to, he thought, because by then the one or the other of the men sat at the table was well into his story.