Monday, January 29, 2007

Esperanto and Lit Matches

The shamble leg man slept with a gypsy who had flies in the seams of her eyes and breathe like spoiled onions. She spoke Romanian and wore goatskin shoes with birds’ talon claps. She claimed to be tutored in tap dancing, a claim he cared not to challenge, and knew how to cut hair with lit matches. Her hair was a covey of twigs and balled string that she twisted into a loose knot at the back of her head. She had a scissor cut just below her right eye and a cyst on the knob of her chin. When she spoke she spoke in gibberish and Esperanto, a consonant wail that deafened his ears. Her eyes were black shale, the sclera pitted with green, the lashes curved inward like apple peals. She had loose skin under her arms; skin boiled until it separated from the bone, a marrow whiteness in the rook of her elbow.

Ferment and Knee-pants

‘This is for horses’ asses or people that fret too much’, catechized the man in the hat, ‘or wear the wrong hat on the wrong day, simple-minded fools.’ A fen rag sky, not azure blue or cerulean, a slough of flax clothe and soiled linen. The man in the hat remembered his mother dressing him in knee-pants, a red plastic belt cinched round his waist, her fingernails digging into the cull of his pelvis, a buzzing in his ears. These were memories he’d rather not have, things he’d rather forget, like a foul odor or a scabbed knee, or his father’s silence, the offal smell of ferment and malt that lived in the cellar.

Friday, January 26, 2007

There's No Sky

There’s no sky this morning, so the man in the hat stood in front of his lean-to and looked skyward, thinking that if he thought hard he could think the sky into being. When this failed to work he lit a nub-end cigarette and got on with the day. He thought of the bow legged man, who had crab’s legs and a felt hat without a brim, and the shamble legged man, who he thought very little of, but thought about just the same. He thought about the alms man, whom he seldom thought about, and the harridan, and the man with no nose who sniffled through the holes in his eyes. He thought about having thoughts, about thinking thoughts, but gave up thinking when he couldn’t think straight any longer, much as he tried.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Handbag Merchant

The bow legged man’s mother wore hats, sunbonnets and pillboxes, and a beret with a cameo pinned to the fa├žade. She had bucked teeth and an under-bite and never wore the same hat twice, for fear of being ostentatious, or simply because she didn’t want to look like she had only one hat. The shamble leg man suspected that the whore’s glove he found belonged to the bow legged man’s mother, though he couldn’t prove it, nor really cared to, as he cared for very little. He rigged the whore’s glove from the bedpost over his bed with a straightened coat hanger and stared at it for hours on end, sometimes longer. He imagined it covering a whore’s tiny hand, the fingers clutching a handbag or a silk hat, the kind worn by French chanteuse and magician’s assistants. He masturbated into his hat, pretending he was a magician or a handbag merchant, his face redder than a fresh picked apple, snorting and chortling like a Brahman.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Pageantry of Hats

One day the bow legged man stop to look into the window of a women’s haberdashery, double-jointed manikins and boxes, a pageantry of shoes lined up like sentinels, and so many hats he thought he’d loose his balance, his bowed leg crumpling beneath him. There were women’s sunbonnets, boaters, hats with veils and taffeta frills, some crooned with fruit, apples and bananas, flowers twisted into silk hatbands, pillbox hats and church hats, hats worn once, then thrown away, cameo hats bejeweled with stones and gems, and hats that he couldn’t identify, but knew were hats just the same.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cast-iron and Crimping

There is nothing more abhorrent, thought the bow legged man, than a man in a hat who should go hatless. Some heads just don’t suit a hat, either because they’re too large or they sit awkwardly, making them look more like foolscaps than hats, ribbons and baubles, tassels and crimping adding to the falsity of hats, there not quite being hats. The mercantilists, with their pin making machines and cotton gins, cast-iron soaking tubs, such fanciful ideas and notions, a fedora or a bowler, a Panama or a sou’wester, a toque or a balaclava, things woven and seamed together with stitching and pegs.

Cruet and Millseed

Retardant and Sterno

The shamble leg man met the bow legged man at the soup kitchen on a day when the sky was mutton grey and their legs stiff with rickets and chill. The bow legged man smelled faintly of cloves, the shamble leg man of retardant and sterno. They sat across from one another, knees knocking and jimmying, jaws working frantically, teeth clacking curds of meat and boiled sweet potato that had lost its sweetness. The bow legged man had rubbed his gums with oil of cloves to assuage the pain of a pyorrhea brought on by a toothpick that had lodged itself under his lower front tooth, embedding itself in the milk of his jawbone. The shamble leg man always smelled of retardant and sterno, sometimes curial and peppermint, or dog meat and rashers when he'd been invited to share the man in the hat’s supper, which he seldom was. The soup kitchen was abuzz with men, some in hats, others in toques, and some who wrapped scarves round their necks like woolen garrotes. The bow legged man seldom wore a hat, or a toque, or anything that could be cinched round one’s neck like a lynch knot. He felt that hats were for small men with small heads that were incapable of retaining sufficient heat to keep them warm. These men he referred to as the small men, men whose heads, and the thoughts they had in them, were so small that they weren’t worth the bother of noticing, or referring to as thoughts or heads at all. As he had a full lustrous head of hair he felt that those who didn’t were either thick skulled or lacking in common sense, because if they had common sense they’d have taken precautions against loosing their hair, and their thoughts, silly cunts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wormwood and Chartreuse

One day the bow legged man forgot his tinfoil cap at home, entering the world in absinthial, at risk of frequencies that otherwise left him at ease and unattended. Without his fouler he was besotted, frail and weakened with life’s intoxicants, Wormwood and Chartreuse, Paddy’s and Metaxas, a distillery of frequencies and voices. He stove the pain with licorice root and pot-sherry, which he drank from a hipflask he kept on a toggle attached to his wrist. When he was of the mind to, which given his infirmaries was seldom, he would tamp a chock of licorice root into his hipflask, furcating an essence of anise to the pottage.

Metal Shim

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Radio Frequencies and Toecaps

When the ambulance men found the bow legged man his head was caved in just below the hairline, his right eye fisted into the socket. The doctors decided a metal shim was in order, so hammered and wedged one into the bow legged man’s head along his hairline just above the covey of his nose. After the surgery the bow legged man claimed he could hear radio frequencies, a static humming in the front of his head just above his eyebrow and under his right eye. He fashioned a liner out of tinfoil and pinned it to the underside of his cap, to keep out the humming and bustle in his head. When this didn’t work he took to plugging his ears with cotton baton and wearing a hat with earflaps and extra wadding, which caused him to sweat abundantly and leave crease marks on his forehead, just above his nose and eyebrows, where the metal shim sat like a toecap.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Bow Legged Man

He knew a man, a bow legged man, who wore potato sac trousers and limped to one side like a listing metronome. He claimed to have found the missing whore’s glove, the one missing from behind the Jewish grocer’s. Knowing that the shamble leg man had the right glove he offered to barter with him for the left one, the one he had found, where, he would not say. The bow legged man was a secretive man, and very seldom did he let on that he knew anything for fear of being held accountable for his knowing something that perhaps he shouldn’t; and as he had a metal shim in his head he could seldom differentiate between what was real and what was phantasm or trickery.

Lucien Freud

Whore's Glove

The shamble leg man found a whore’s glove with mother of pearl buttons and broken thread, from being slipped on and off, he figured, in the dustbin behind the Jewish grocer’s. He stowed it in his greatcoat pocket and thought nothing more of it until the button started to pinch his leg, just to the side of his pubic bone, where he had a sore from sleeping in wet trousers. He reached into his pocket, retrieved the button and held it aloft between his forefinger and thumb. There was a straight pin in the glove, the whore’s glove. The shamble leg man noticed a prick on his finger, the second one in from his pinkie finger, a curd of blood forming a scab the shape of a mother of pearl, pearl, a faint line like tailor’s thread on his fingernail, whore’s thread seamed with baker's flour and seeds.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Seamus Heaney wins T.S. Eliot Prize

God, Biscuits and Sweet Wine

I believe in God, biscuits and sweet wine. The shamble leg man felt a cursing wind tearing the side of his head. This was not uncommon, as he spent most of his day in the open foraging for God, biscuits and sweet wine. Knowing what he did, which was very little, he felt at ease in the world. In the in between times the shamble leg man would sit on a bench, slatted and repined with paint, green or yellow-blue, taking in the world eating a raw onion sandwich with Plock mustard and cheese slices, an apple cored and cut into wedges, and a sip-sac, orange or grape-aide, which he sucked through a plastic straw, which some mistook to be a bobbin or a rector’s sluice.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Whirling and Gadding

A quail blue morning, the man in the hat in pantaloons with folded-over cuffs and a wool muffler, bicycle chain grease and blacking, morning’s yellow sickness. There are lungfish in the sky, thought the man in the hat, a creel basketful. The sky danced; a whirl of dervishes on PCP and Lithium, a hoedown, a crisscross, a billet en masse. This is all so strange, this dancing and whirling and gadding about, clowns, a strongman and a cote of little people, all these misshapen heads and caulks of hair, too much for one person to take in so early in the day, too much indeed, so he mused. Perhaps the sky will fall careening into my head, where cowlick crisscrosses parting, Brill and comb scratches, an unsightly mussing, all that dancing and whirling and gadding about with neither rhyme nor reason, all this larking and tithing, oh my, oh my indeed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

These Are Harried Men

An infirmary of men cauterized from pyloric to sternum, stilled by a meddlesome hand. These are harried men. There is no plight, no Diaspora of bodies, just a yellow sickness that impedes movement. Shamble legged, hatted, slow-witted and addled, the sickness, feet shuffling in and out of the moment, with neither a reprieve nor stillness, just an outside in, a murderous cowing.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This Caterwauling

This caterwauling, all this yammering and yowling, such a damnable nuisance and bother; if I could only deafen myself to the sirens that play havoc in my head, thought the man in the hat, a pillow feather cuckolding his jaw, but as I can’t, I must put up with this murder of noise. He connived himself into thinking about jammy jam and pot-glue, child’s paste made from flour and water, and his mother’s flea-bitten face, eyes sallow and indifferent, teeth clacking one against the other. His father abhorred his mother’s mastication, teeth like chisels chipping away at bone and gristle, hock and shoulder, bridge-mixture and licorice allsorts, Melbas and wheat thins, tallow biscuits chouse with compote and aspic.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Back of Her Hands

When the nights were cold the harridan wrapped herself in a woolen blanket she’d found in the trash, a Christmas gift thrown away like an unwanted child, a rag-doll that had crept passed a too-loose diaphragm. She pulled her knees tight into her chest and dreamt of magic gardens and warm water, of what could have been but never was, of a past that she couldn’t forget as much as she tried, her mother’s wailing cry, a hungry dog full of madness and hate. She slept in the murder of her thoughts, trying to remember how to forget, the cold biting into her cheeks, the back of her hands, her eyes pressed tight, waiting for morning, waiting for it all to stop.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Seminary fluid trickled from between her legs, the place where rectors and altar boys took their leisure and fun. When she was a girl, ten or eleven, she took confirmation classes at the church beside the viaduct across from the haberdasher’s, the steeple visible from the highest branch of the willow tree, a stepping-board braded into the trunk for easy climbing. Her mother sent her there thinking it would calm her down and put a stop to her stuttering, which bothered her to no end. The rector was sway-backed and tonsured, smoked cigars and had whiskey breathe and a pinkie ring that he twiddled with his thumb. He connived her into the sacristy closet, removed his surplice and collar, and forced his hand up between her thighs, the creel of whiskey and cigar smoke reddening her face, his eyes trained on the cross, the floorboards crackling beneath the weight of his desecration. From that moment on she knew that her life would be lived on the periphery, places where people with surplices and collars seldom went.

Tallies and Sums

He stood in defiance of common sense and lodging, praying that he wouldn’t catch his death of cold or by drowning. His mother made pies from recipes copied out of the pages of women’s magazine, her face a battlement of confusion, a Pall Mall smouldering in the ashtray, the filter salve with lipstick and stuck skin. He remembered sitting on the cold linoleum floor watching his mother trouble herself with motherly things, a ketchup bottle bowsprit with holes, his father’s work shirts stained through with sweat and aftershave, the cuffs split where his wrists strafed the desktop, his thoughts on tallies and sums.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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