Saturday, July 18, 2009

Marfeast Lickplate

On a tattered sheet of foals-cap, written in bright blue and yellow ink (the Witness, some might surmise) was the following, “ cross multiplication of reverses of fortune, from which these supports protected him, and by elimination of all positive values to a negligible negative irrational unreal quantity… Successively, in descending helotic order: Poverty: that of the outdoor hawker of imitation jewellery, the dun for the recovery of bad and doubtful debts, the poor rate and deputy cess collector. Mendicancy: that of the fraudulent bankrupt with negligible assets paying 1s. 4d. in the pound, sandwichman, distributor of throwaways, nocturnal vagrant, insinuating sycophant, maimed sailor, blind stripling, superannuated bailiffs man, marfeast, lickplate, spoilsport, pickthank, eccentric public laughingstock seated on bench of public park under discarded perforated umbrella. Destitution: the inmate of Old Man's House (Royal Hospital) Kilmainham, the inmate of Simpson's Hospital for reduced but respectable men permanently disabled by gout or want of sight. Nadir of misery: the aged impotent disfranchised ratesupported moribund lunatic pauper[1].

Not quite fathoming what it was he was privy to reading, the man in the hat threw the tattered piece of foals-cap into the next to nearest dustbin, shaking the dew off his once nimble fingers. ‘--strange indeed these markings, and in such bright blues and yellows’ he said to himself, as no one was within hearing sight, and even had there been he wouldn’t have dare change a vowel or constantan, words being treasures bequeathed to few. On the off-side that someone might be within earshot, which indeed might be the case as others might be out and about on such a delightfully sunshiny morning, he corrected his overbite and spoke polysyllabically, applying emphasis on uncommon words and turns of phrase; many of which he used sparingly but used just the same.

‘--I’m a feared this might be the last one…’ said the man in the hat stilly. ‘--I cannot, nor shall I, never say yes again, never again!’ Applying a small turn of pressure on his good leg he turned in the direction of the Waymart, and there, sitting abutted the shopping carts eavesdropping was the harridan’s sister, her hair done up in posies, a bow curling under her chin and around the cord of her fair neck.

Across from the harridan’s sister he espied the lams man (he sometimes called the alms man the lams man, in keeping with his desire to make old things seem new) figuring out his day’s take, his alms cap laying flat on the sideways to the left of him. Thinking he might say something untoward, as he had incurred many a person’s ire with his untoward advances, he thought the better of it and sat on the palms of his hands, making himself seem taller than he actually was. ‘--days such as these seem to go on and on… forever’ he belayed to himself, as those people who had been out and about tending to their daily routine or looking for scavenging, had either left or gone somewhere other than where he was, sitting on the palms of hands seeming taller than he actually was, just a soupçon taller, but taller just the same. Written over the headboard, where his wife’s harried head made slapping noises, was Život s hvězdou, and beneath that Putas Grandees’, both written in pencil and black ink.
[1] James Joyce, Ulysses

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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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