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Indigo not violet Paul Sutton

The Red Ceilings Press

MMXI [rcp 21]

Indigo not violet Paul Sutton

Indigo not violet Try it without the quote marks. Bourgeois writers, running from origins. Crime trips them into reality. I seek it and scarper. Educated to oblivion, everywhere the catcalls come. “Real life” drops lime, trips us into the prison grave. How people gawped at the 9am execution notices on Wandsworth jail. Now they’d use post-its, signed with a smiley. Think. A poetry sequence on narks and informers? Absurd. I’d learn Argot and Polari, simper at the rough trade, sniff in cottages saved for visiting queens. Inspiration… Before meeting my wife, an audience with Mad Frankie Fraser, Oxford’s Eagle and Child. Entering to Carmina Burana, gown flapping like a bat in a bed-sit. “Hats off at the front.” Mortar board raised for the gallows crowd. Memories of Wandsworth; stewed tea and nonce bashing. Swimming through rats at Tower Bridge. Sensitive on his friendship with Genet – “The greatest thief of us all.” A love of Walter Benjamin’s “boulevard flaneurism”.

Writer-in-Residence Winged it. Now writer-in-residence at Institutio Modernismo el Crimen, cut in Amalfi’s cliffs. Marble cool on Tyrrenhian blue. I insist on different rooms. Watch a couple copulate by the pool. Morning like a slap. Circulate at breakfast, distribute copies, disappear. My first poem is an utter joke:

Amalfi staring To drive beyond the valley’s end, where clouds meet motorways. Or dropped by the wind on its cliffs. When he dies, catapult his heart over the mountains, back to England’s influx and obesity. Despondent houses slumped by allotments, trolley-filled canals, tyre dumps. Being lost as a child, traipsing identical streets, curtains flapping on long afternoons. Ditch-birthed, foul fields, whack-shaped knees, lost cats on lampposts. Or so he recalls and laughs with the gulls. 250 Euros a night, down by lift to the sea. Days of basking; counting clouds, ghosting credit – Italian like songs he’s never heard. Where’s Hereward? On his island in the fens, watching the willows, counting days on bits of string – seeing Normans with hollow helmets,

Dutchmen digging black lines, newbuilds where there’s drainage; waiting for the floods. Zigger-stagger up the cliff path. Along this coast, pockets of Africans blown onshore. Combine them with Ithacans, in a sequence on migrant odysseys? Tired bullshit. Back in my room, I flick through Walter Benjamin. Readable on the plane, now feckless and homosexual in affectation. Small wonder chased country to country? Deadly thoughts. I could start a rightist tract, follow him across borders? Careful. Hounding of liberals now banned with dogs. Yesterday’s drive to Heathrow, I detoured via Acton and Hounslow; wonderful, the dangerous canines paraded. Lurking estates, bathed in pulsing hatred. Why can’t planes scoop them like saltwater, for dousing Mediterranean hill fires? I watch as flying-boats flop and fill shimmering bellies. Back to my key text. Planned through the hottest hours, drenching the desk in bogus modernisms. Listen. A residency of hurried footsteps. The chambermaids wheeling. Peering through the spy hole. Mid-twenties, hands on hips – thinks herself unseen. Flicks mirror and purses lips. I fumble for my fly.

Reprise Shattered. Grope for the shutters. Outside the black and empty ocean, hours past sunset. Should I end this in epiphany? England’s rivers need praising, before draining for travellers to build on. Oh God. Obsessions again.

Camorra The maid, the girl mentioned; I eventually fucked her. Bent over the bath, legs apart. Later we smoke, sitting on the single bed. She has a brother in jail: Naples, tax fraud, linkage with council payments to organised crime. Headlong into August heat. The dual carriageway lined with blocks. An impossible exit, crossing lanes last minute – she laughs. We drive deeper, into networks of parched grass, fences and graffiti garages. Danger? I know I am lost. She explains the gang signs, territories, corners where murders occur. A neighbourhood bar, football pennants, papal and lottery posters. Helicopters periodically overhead. A woman flashes her crotch – I see the pilot flick his tongue. Drink through the afternoon, soaking in the corner. Addressed I nod and smile, make notes, watch febrile game shows. Nothing happens though. I read my book on the Krays; cross-flick to the Richardsons; accounts of Italian gangs in 1920’s Glasgow; Albanian people traffickers; Kurdish drug mules; the Vietnamese Pan Chuck Army. A bored barman is changing his ring tone. He selects Coldplay, sings along. I am English so cannot bar-sit with a non-alcoholic drink (let alone an ice cream). Single men do this here - pouring and sipping with purposeful slowness. Sit at the bar, picking their teeth! Occasional explosions into mobile phones, which no one acknowledges, not even moving a head.

Ritual and rhythm. I guess Europeans are bored most of the time; maybe I am drunk. Her uncle approaches, a tubby hand, manicured and smooth. The football starts – he pounds my knee when Napoli score. Later I discuss English crime – he knows only of London, hears of 1960’s gangs with barely feigned interest. His views on Arabs, Albanians and Gypsies are splenetic, fingers cutting across my throat, gargling garlic into my face. Angrily he accepts a copy of my Amalfi poem (now translated into Italian) . Later I find it floating in the urinal. All this promiscuity, boozing and stuff; it’s just because one day you realise you’ll be dead. Look at the working class – especially the women. The straight ahead stares, supermarket barging, nightclub, bus queue glances. Total confidence. That’s how it’s done. Now to write it down.

Homecoming Getting too confident – the foreigners. Walking the glass floor in Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, some Italian told me to remove my shoes. The views. Down through the wind farm whiteness; across the sacred Solent, birthplace of empire; William’s forest skulking by the M3; Southsea, where Kipling was a black sheep; rum tots in the new bistros; grog a lot, rolling past the press gangs; in Gunnery Wharf I dress as a matloe, play my whistle, hop to the dry dock. Stood waiting for the English ships to come. Lines ten syllables; iambic – well some: Oh for the salt of the wide open sea, leaving the sparkling tar of my youth. Fly through the Channel, the Bay of Biscay, scudding the coast of our oldest ally, pass the sacred rock, towering at dawn, down the Barbary Coast, trading in opals, to free white slaves taken from the south coast by devilish Moors, for kebab shop owners. Striking land, capture Algiers for England, Tunis - down the lotus coast to Carthage. For fucks sake. I don’t regret anything. I watch documentaries condemning our past, but I went there and loved it all. So in Pompey, I man my balcony, raise a George flag for the passing warships, watch a last sun catching “The Still and West”.

Exile Night time electricity is better than gems. The colours on the promenade, on curving steps up to the “Hotel de Paris”. Once I would have called it a dead-end town, but this the greatest pier in Christendom, and I’m not sneering at the families who kept the true faith and holidayed here, year on year. In Cromer I end my tale, revenant in “The Wellington”, chronicling pub conversation. My countrymen’s last laments, by the sea from which they came.

– I’m telling you Matthew, I seen it all before. Mum’s spending your inheritance I earned thirty years ago. Only nineteen, you’re keeping them all. – But I don’t know anyone in the north. – Then you need to get started, move up the coast, get a house. – I got a trade. – Look at the ring I bought you, labradorite – it cost me nineteen quid. Green-grey at first, like an old man’s mac. “See the iridescence as it turns, blue burning from inside. Indigo oceans where porpoises play.”

Paul Sutton Was born in London. He graduated from Jesus College, Oxford, worked in industry until 2004, then left to travel - and now teaches English in a secondary school. His work has been widely published in UK and US journals. The collection Broadsheet Asphyxia (Original Plus, 2003) explores instability, corruption and repulsion, using twisted narrative voices. His pamphlet The Chronicles of Dave Turnip (Original Plus 2009) conflates poetic and other fragmentation, using parodied self-mythologizing of crime. This sequence concludes the 2010 collection Brains Scream at Night (from US Post-Avant press, BlazeVox) which gathers material from various publications since 2003: ( Two longer sequences of polemical work are available in a Salt anthology of poetry manifestos, Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh (2009). A set of narrative poems are forthcoming in Rupert Loydell’s 2011 Knives, Forks and Spoons anthology Smartarse.

Thunnerplump And so, we say, friendship ends here in a tidal column of cloud that crumples the sky. Today has the saddest eyes, a tick of rain before the thunder swallows us into a house roomed by chance. Raw edges of what might have been scrape my metal fillings. Magpies people the light like an old movie devoid of sound but for a theatrical pianist. We close the book on the last brick of the story as dark paint swathes old weathered wood.

The Red Ceilings Press

MMXI [rcp 21]

indigo not violet  

by Paul Sutton