HAVE YOU PAID? HAVE YOU PAID YOUR DUES? The angelus has rung. And out, out onto the square, pour the mob. But this is not a mob with weapons. This is not a mob carrying placards for peace, Or shouting out: ‘When do we want it? We want it now!’ This is no ordinary mob of disaffected citizens Mounting some Anti-War, or Support the Strikers protest. These are the corps of The Elite, These are the fixers and founders of empires, These are not the poor but the wealthy, And more….. The Super-wealthy. These are those who, until yesterday, until yesterday, mocked the very idea of protests Those who were, until yesterday the very targets of protest, But these are those….. Those who, until yesterday, were living in a stratosphere Free from fear, and where….. Where. neither wrath, nor protest, nor anything at all crude Or common, could ever, ever reach them.
But now it is they, They, who spill out into the squares, They who shout out to the rooftops They who feel the passions of the emotions, Fear, anger, pain, loss. They who can taste upon their fine wine tasting tongues, The bitter taste of defeat. And smell in their once haughty nostrils, The reduction of profits to ‘merde’ Or to some volcanic ash falling from some far distant island And choking them, men not accustomed to being choked by ash Or conscience, Or emotions other than greed, of course. But that was never, ever before today. An unpleasant, or vomit-inducing flavour. That was the taste for and of success. Those were the airs you got to breathe at the very summit, Those were the rewards for being ‘connected’ to real things, Things that really mattered. Things that mattered more than Wars Or striking manual workers,
Or nurses, Or firemen, or, or, orâ€Ś Avarice, has its price it seems. It seems that avarice is not a virtue after all! The need for more cushions on the floor More cushions in the staterooms, More insurance against a future, Any future. Just does not work. Not any more. They waive papers and gesticulate wildly. They are falling â€“ The World is falling down. Down go the stocks, down go the shares. In the belfry; in the upper windows; on the rooftops the soldiers sit, bored. The machine-guns are in place and loaded. The commanding officer takes a final drink with his brother officers.
"To the new age." he says and smiles. No, this is not really how it will be. This is only how it will be when they make the film. But will there be a film? Will there be a history to record? Will there indeed, With all this greed, Be even a tomorrow?
CHANGES IN THE SCRIPT
He was her make up artist. Artist of the Giant Rubies. Artist of the Carmine lips. She was the matchmakers puppet, A clockwork figure. She was â€“ she was A servant, in a house of dolls.
It is all changed now. He adds the colour of blood To the black and white images of films She rages against his acts. She no longer weeps. She will not wear any red. She has broken all her strings. But the days are long and a certain hunger remains Amongst the ruins are echoes of a never-ending past.
So the dolls continue weeping, In the shadows In her shadows, In all our shadows. Where in the shadows of our past lives. We still stand, All of us, All of ourselves, male and female, All dressed as dolls.
THE MUSIC OF DREAMS After the music of dreaming We awake again To the usual broken bells, To the all-too-real discordant world. My eyes do not open to look on myths. There are no poems in the morning. Just jam and papers. Grim news : sweet jam. Gut life, inexorably real Sets art of poetry back Towards evening at best. Perhaps to sleep itself. Itsâ€™ natural birthplace. Back into unreality, Back to where it came from, Back into the music of dreams.
Back to the unending cycle Of a life lived in hope In hope of better things.
THE COMMITTEE If we imagine a clock, both hands fallen to half past six and un-propelled by the whirring of the spindles, we can appreciate the apathy of the hands. As the wheels of the committee spin within, like the movement of a great ‘horologe’ which fails to get away To ever get away from half past six, our own hands, that can manage the delicate offices of love, or tear apart, strike out or strike down, simply fall in sad defeat – whilst the whirring words drive on and on. No wonder that the work of hands is held in less esteem than that of the work of tongues. After all, what is done is only as foolish, or fine as it is told.
Finally, of course, the hands will have to arbitrate and rescue the resolutions if they are to become acts. But when the music if over, when the music if over, when the music if over â€“ No-one stays to see the dance â€Ś
THE PERFECT FATHER, THE VERY UNPERFECT SON Simon yawned in the presence of his father He not only yawned, but followed his yawn with a remark. He said that it felt like a ‘lazy day’. ‘The Days, Simon, are not lazy! People, Simon, are lazy – People. Try to remember that will you? Try, will you Simon, to remember that laziness Is a human failing – not a matter of fate! Not a matter of fate at all!’
Simon’s father, once again, was counselling him. Simon did not reply. He knew better than to reply.
And he knew better still, that laziness Was a cosmic force – It stole up on you. Overpowered your will.Made you submissive, Acquiescent, Fatalistic, Even tolerant.
Simon felt that he was far too exhausted To raise any protest against his father. Or rather, as he put it to himself, ‘Too tolerant’. “Sure dad.” he drawled. These two words stretched out sleepily. Advice made Simon feel extra heavy. Extra tired.
Ready to hibernate. His father sighed – He too felt fatigue. Counselling, although necessary, Was hard work. Especially counselling Simon. So he went outside to chop some logs As a good example to his son. Simon read a few pages of a book A book that happened to be lying ‘near-at-hand’. Slowly the words unwound The words unwound slowly’ Until they began snoring’ Snoring, On the page. Outside there was a steady ‘Thwack! Thwack!’
But this soon faded away into the gentle tip – tap of a metronome – then silence. Outside his father brought the axe head down On log after log after log, Until the sweat coursed Down his arms, Dropped from his nose, And down, around his ankles, down, The wood chippings scattered like leaves around his feet. His father wondered whether his example’ His fine example to his son, Was bearing fruit As he swung the axe in a high ‘Manly’ arc above his head He brought it down. Simon slept.
Desire She reached out to pluck a fruit from the tree. Her arm extended gracefully towards it. The distance was long Far longer than she thought. She felt the strain of her stretching The pains of ageing as she stretched The fruit remained Just out of reach. She was no longer elegant And she observed That her once fine fingers Were now closing like clumsy claws. Her once slender arms Were now dew lapped. And the fruit she reached for Had become shrivelled, undesirable And had withered on the tree. She drew back her arm And slowly, painfully
Closed her hand without the fruit. She smiled to herself at last. For now she understood That the fruit of desire was an illusion And inaccessible. And only when we reach for it Not for the hand, But with the imagination Can it be grasped. And it has the colour, Taste, and odour, and beauty Of a dream. Of a beautiful, but ever receding, And forever beyond all reach perfection. The perfection that can be found, And even found quite often But only in a dream.
THE DINING ROOM
(From â€˜Days in the Asylumâ€™)
The main course was almost finished. The air was beginning to congeal but was kept flowing by the invigorating and sweetly scented speeches of the guests. Outside, nearby, a pylon was humming to itself; Inside, lit by glass chandeliers, we were humming to each other. Our eyes made little sideways glances to see what dish would be served next. There was a slight pause as a silver salver arrived and, as our host removed the lid, a small burst of applause. It contained a large mouse with an olive in its mouth. "Exquisite darling, quite exquisite !" I heard someone say. And it was exquisite. Then I noticed that the dessert, a trifle, was already in place - richer even, and creamier, than the conversation; yet another culinary delight. But unfortunately someone had forgotten to provide dessert spoons. A minor omission, I thought, and easily accounted for.
It would be laughed over lightly, accepted as someone's little blemish and rectified by the host or hostess returning from the kitchen with a flourish and some 'bon mot'. But nothing of the kind occured. The trifle was passed on from hand to hand. And one by one the guests each took a fistful from the bowl And smeared it into their mouths, Some talking, Others grinning as they did so. At last it came to me, a filthy mess. "Don't I get a spoon ?" I said lightly and laughed. All the other faces turned towards me in horror. I had spoken out of turn, I had become an enemy.
THE SALON (from the poems in prose series: 'Days in the Asylum and first published in Triquarterly) This is where I first noticed the cracking noise in my head. Each chair was painted in bright enamel -- a lurid blue, a cerise, an emerald green. There was a cream chair, a violet chair and a leaf green, but no yellow chair. The colours of the coats on the vermilion coat rack were more sombre, apart from the exposed lining of one of them (in fact mine) which was bright yellow. Was it my neck which cracked or was it my skull contracting ? I could not be sure. A man sat at a round, wine-coloured table, rolled up his sleeves and flexed his arm muscles. A woman with a cigarette blew out a steady stream of smoke before she let out a burst of laughter like little bells of ice. The man placed his hand on hers before he unhooked his jacket from the back of his chair.
It also had a yellow lining. I felt the small fracture spread. What should I do ? After all, you cannot go to the doctor and say that you are breaking up because of a single colour, can you ?
Short Fictions Volume 7