Saturday, April 10, 2010

Berlin Underpants

Lela didn’t understand why beasts were so distained; they too were entitled to a pleasant smile and a welcoming handshake. Her mamma, after all, was known to wrap her thighs round the belly of the beast, the brute thrashing her round the horsehair mattress like a ragdoll. ‘never underestimate a woman’s itch’ her uncle would say, ‘they don’t know the difference between pearls and swine’.

when he turned twelve his da bought
him a secondhand bicycle with money
he saved from his job slaughtering pigs

his da was known for his precision at placing
the head of the ax into the halves of the skull,
felling the pig four legs out from the body.

pumping the tappet with his left hand he
raised the carcass over the boil, dropping
it in headfirst, his right hand obliging

the push-rod into the cogwheel,
the whirr and bustle of machinery
filling his ears with dirty thoughts.

Cranendonck Brabant and James Rodker, of whom little is known, sell oxtails from the boot of their car; a dollar-fifty-seven a tail, two links for two-dollars-five. They steal the oxtails from the offal-bin behind the Cock’s Bros. abattoir, Cranendonck retrieving and James stowing the purloined tails in his haversack. ‘for the love of God’ says, Rodker ‘this one’s full of flies’. ‘and this one’s all maggoty’ says Brabant, the two beside themselves with bad thoughts. At that moment, as if by magic, the littlest dogman appears from behind a deadfall of elms and hollyhocks, his chest puffed out like a tympanuchus cupido. Sneering he squats next to the offal-bin where the two are rummaging for oxtail. Not saying a word he pushes past the two oxtail thieves and continues down the alleyway behind the Cock’s Bros. abattoir. ‘this one’s maggoty too’ says Rodker trying to hold in his breath. ‘they’re all maggoty and full of flies’ says Brabant angrily. ‘we’ll be lucky to get one-dollar-five for these’ says Rodker squinting, the rancid odor of off-meat assailing his nostrils. ‘damn it to hell!’ says Brabant, his face as red as a gundog’s nose. (Anyhow, who in their right mind thinks about dead flies? Dare say I dare I).

He came down with the glanders, pustules and goiters forming in heaps on his neck and jowls. His grandmamma gave him Bertelsmann’s palliative followed with a tincture of Gütersloh’s digestive, the swelling diminishing round his jawbone and lower lip. ‘he’s a guttersnipe’ said the legless man, ‘and deserves what he gets’. ‘no man deserves this’ said the grandmamma, ‘not even a guttersnipe’. ‘but the damn smell’ said the legless man covering his face with his hand. ‘its worse than oxtails gone maggoty’. ‘mind you mouth!’ warned the grandmamma, ‘or it’ll be you who’s full of heaps and boils’. That winter he bought his grandmamma a doctor’s bag to tote her medicines around in, his grandmamma carrying it with her everywhere she went.

He left the whore’s glove, the one he found under the Portici portico, with the widow Zavalla, the grand-niece of Neuquén Belo. In the winter months her grandmamma made her wear Berlin underpants, the red spots on her thighs attesting to her grandmamma’s wisdom. The erstwhile Franz Biberkopf, friend to Theo Rutra and Christine Ambach, great uncle to Maria Dillenschneider and Emile Jolas, sometime acquaintance of Carl Einstein, know for his massive four-squared head, and general gadfly, sold Berlin underpants from the boot of his car.

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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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