Monday, 16 August 2010

Someone Comes Between

Your little review of John Ashbery
that didn't appear in the Tuesday
paper. Wasn't a secret code meant only
for me: No poet has a longer finger
or more extensive menagerie than

I googled you and him together
jealous as a twin and a lover
but pooling your minds proved
luckily difficult the flex of his dream
and the female curve of your rationale
remained unhelixed. What's chipped
away at by hard rains of words is not us:
you are a solenoid that must be kept dry
he is an eighty-something yank

his carpal grasp on the keys
to a ruined castle that I handed over

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Letter Came

A letter came. On the envelope were the words MR P. A. GUDGEON and an address. Mr P. A. Gudgeon recognised the address as his own, or that of his house. The envelope was white; the address was on a white label stuck onto the white envelope. The stamp was blue, and had a picture of an ageless woman - the head of state of the country where Mr Gudgeon lived - in profile. He opened the letter with an unwieldy decorative paper-knife with the dead silver head of a duck as its handle. The beak left a semi-circular imprint in his thumb which disappeared as, looking through a magnifying glass framed in soapstone, he read the letter.

CORK, said the tame rook on the windowsill. COOORRRRK. Mr Gudgeon threw it an old cork from a bottle of damson wine and the bird caught it in its bill, spearing it and gargling with laughter, tossing it from side to side and flapping inanely.

Mr Gudgeon replied to the letter using a pencil that he sharpened after every word with a penknife that he sharpened after every word on a stone that he cleaned after every paragraph.

When he had finished the letter Mr Gudgeon put it in a yellowish envelope and went to feed the pigs. A year ago there had been four pigs. One pair had had piglets, bringing the total up to eleven. Now there were four again, but a different four.

When he went to post the letter darkness was beginning to crawl over the low hills and reach around the bubonic groins of beech trees thrust into the air. Mr Gudgeon did not care much for the stiff milky darkness of a country night, but neither was he afraid of it. He knew exactly the distance between his door and the post box. It was three miles and three furlongs straight across the fields. Going along the lane added an extra furlong and a half. Mr Gudgeon left his coat behind. He knew more about the weather than I do.

The walk to the letter triggered the following memory (in fact many things triggered the following memory because it was a memory that was different from all the other memories): The last time he went into town had been it nineteen eighty-six. His brother had taken him to a public house in the old part of town where men and women talked about things that made his face turn white. All the drinkers seemed to be dressed in black leather. When they moved their arms he thought of cockroaches moving across a dirty kitchen floor: his floor. After a few nervous port and lemons he decided to catch the late train rather than stay the night in his brother's house. The sky reflected the metallic brightness of the world. He walked through the world. It whispered and breathed around him though it seemed to be made of foil. He walked through the world of residential buildings, grew tired and leant on a wall in front of a three-storey house. Over the expanse of front garden he could see clearly into the living room of the house. Women with the faces of foxes and men like giant bats were seated around a table, with mouths extended in terrible grins. A man with a heavily greased moustache, his arms the tendrils of a predatory plant, poured black milk into a pyramid structure made of cuboid whisky tumblers. The liquid flowed down in a dark mountain waterfall; the pyramid glowed like a pointed obsidian tooth. The people in the room were looking at Mr Gudgeon. One of the women pulled down the straps of her black evening dress. Her nipples were black as wet flint against her nakedness. Mr Gudgeon vomited. Purple droplets cascaded off a privet hedge. He ran to where he thought the train station was; paving slabs heaved up in front of him like a sea. There was a firmament of windows, bright with fragile life. Nowhere was there a stand of beech trees holding the earth's crust together with rachitic roots.

He posted the letter. A papery sound, or a sound like the inhalation of a single breath, escaped from the mouth of the pillar-box. He touched the red sides. He placed and ear against the red bulge at the top. It felt a little like the cold, tight skin of a piglet. He listened with his ear, with the skin of his ear, with the skin and vegetable flesh of his body, and he heard a pulse like the pulse of a pig, a human: the pulse of communication, of shared existence. The skin was cold. Blood flowed somewhere. He lifted his head up and blood flowed everywhere. As he walked back along the lane he heard no pulse, except the plastic beat of his shoes on the grey crust of the human world.