Friday, 22 July 2011

Ways to Learn About a New City

Go it alone. Look at the buildings: the last time you were here they were wet and the local stone shone like so many bleached bars of coal tar soap. Lie to the waitress; don’t let her in on it, on the horrific and degrading fact that you are on a day trip from a town less beautiful than hers. Tell her that you live here but work away. Tell her about the your little garden apartment and the story of how you rescued the kitten and how it was attracted to your kitchen when you played Aztec Camera whilst washing up and how it like you doesn’t much care for The Who even though your ex loved them. But only tell her at the right moment, when the occasion arises, shall we say. Do the research. Tell her you are writing a restaurant review for the local paper, the Chronicle or whatever it’s called. Show her your Parker pen. Ask her if she knows if there’s anything going on in town tonight. If you do manage to get her to go out with you, make a point of explaining to her that you can’t get that drunk, you’ve got to finish the review. Make sure you buy her the first drink, but that’s obvious, right. And if you go somewhere not too dark where all her friends are drinking, offer them a drink too. Try not to go somewhere your ex might go. But she wouldn’t, of course, because she lives in another, shabbier town. If it was still dry outside when she finished her shift, and if you’re clever, you would have made sure you walked her through the last of the sun. To the botanical gardens, maybe. You would have pointed out the interesting trees like they were old friends. Maidenhair, corkscrew hazel. You would have said that you once got locked in here, slightly tipsy, and had to spend the night under the spreading arms of some fir. Lie, basically. Get drunk by about ten o’clock so you’ve got an excuse when your review doesn’t appear in the next couple of days. Tell her that the last time you were here it pissed with rain, then realise that you’ve almost given the game away. Make certain that she is aware of the fact that you have been working away for some time, and this is your first night back in the city. Call it ‘the city,’ as if it’s yours. Don’t call it by its name. Know how to cover your back, even when you’ve had three pints of Belgian lager, a bottle of wine and uncounted sambucas. Then, inexplicably, tell her that you’re lying to her, that you are really from Swindon and only got on the train because you were going mental with boredom on your day off. Hopefully by this stage she will take pity and you will wake up next to her blonde student smile and ask how to use the toaster. If not, go back to the botanical gardens, climb over the fence, find a place where tramps have been but not too recently. Or even better, attempt to climb into the low limbs of the maidenhair tree – but don’t make the mistake of thinking of them as tresses – and learn to live in the boughs. You will get to know the city soon enough, I assure you.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

And Mirrors

Without the town the silver exterior
would just be a flood plain.
The girl with the hair makes
noises with her face and sees
them back again. This is where
I grew up. A loophole in a hill
a hundred and ninety thousand people
fell through. Under virtue, rising,
the torrid fleeting penance
of sitting down with the express
wish of getting smashed up.
Here we find low ceilings, swifts
roam above like little evils
and at night foxes shuck soft eggs
and dribble unseen up alleys.
Simply it is unlikeable, as if televised,
but you can’t see anything worth hating
in the night, drinking off the knowledge
of waking up to piles and periodontitis.
The whole town fancies itself
as none of its inhabitants are capable
of doing. It is its own looking-glass
and it directs the first sun
onto the nearest patch of grass
or lasers in on a pissed-up stag beetle.
In gardens later sobriety aches.
You know that moment when the latening
sky drains clear of swifts, and then they
all return, screaming and bunched
like cyclists? Well, it has happened
and the cats have gone indoors
and the next-door neighbour I thought
was gay is fingering some blonde
Nationwide girl half his age. Standing
on the garden table allows for a view
of the next town: imagine a multiplication
of images brought about by introducing
two reflective surfaces to each other,
slightly skewed like pissheads about to fuck,
and think of an infinite line
of not quite identical towns, and remember
getting your hair cut as a ten year old
on Radnor Street, Josephine
with the permed mullet positioning herself
behind you, asking if the back’s alright.