Sunday, November 28, 2010

Niccolò Falcucci

‘Then that’ll be that’ said his da leaning over the table, his fork moving a mixed bag of organ meats and boiled things around his plate. ‘The end will come and wipe the slate clean; for all and once, my boy’. You mean once and for all don’t you da? ‘Shut your pile! Now move along, damn you!’ His da didn’t take kindly to sass. He was quick with a slap, swinging his hand like a fish mallet, his fist leaving a red weal on a back-talking face. You’re worse than the Inquisition! Prodding and pushing people round like desecrate Jews. Unburying whole families and burning their remains a second and third time. You’re a fucking menace!

She has the ‘French Disease’, the skin around her mouth as hard as a scabbed over knee. Her father read to her from Grünpeck’s ‘Tractatus de Pestilentiali Scorra Sive Mala de Franzos: Originem Remediaqu[ue] Eiusdem Continens’, [published by the in Nuremberg by Kaspar Hochfeder, 1496 or 1497]. When she began to show signs of necrosis, a surfeit symptom of the tertiary stage, common to advanced syphilis, her father summoned the Catastrophist from the village, a tunicate-fleshed man with a doctorate in zoology who was familiar with treatment by Salvarsan, discovered by Niccolò Falcucci and available at the conurbation library under ‘Sermones Medicinales Septem’. [Venice: Bernardino Stagnino, 1490-1491]. The abattoirist prepared the slaughter-room floor, skimming off the blood and intestines, some tied in bows, the pastime of men with minimal intelligence and weak morals, and laid down a double-sided oilcloth, then, with a wave of his hand told him to bring his daughter to the middle of the floor and lay her next to the trap. He did as he was told and stepped back, the Catastrophist stepping forward, his eyes glazed over like a honey cruller. The Catastrophist swabbed the infected areas with a mixture of ox piss and spirit gum, sourcing the contamination at the font, then applied an oatmeal plaster, tying off the loose ends with brass clips. He lay his hands on her forehead and closed her eyes, like one does to the recently dead, then pried open her mouth with a tool that resembled a bung-tapper, the brassy end riveted with past strikes, and cleaning any debris from her throat, which necessitated sticking his longest finger, generally the middle one, though in some the next to middle, given a mother’s excesses while carrying, dislodged a piece of half-digested meat, a roast of pork or mutton, clearing the air passageway for the trenching tool, which he held like a prognosticator’s wand over her head, and edging the tip of the tool down her throat yanked free the vile pox; the smell of rotting organ meat and bile filling the slaughterhouse air with an offal distemper.

The following day, awaking from plodding dreams, her forehead glistening with an oily sebaceous sweat, she lifted her head from the pillow and exclaimed, ‘I’m cured by Jove I’m cured!’ The dead die and the living die; the trick is in knowing which is which.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Conurbation

His mother played pinochle with the gasfitter’s son; never once winning a hand. His da threw craps with the stevedores; rolling snake-eyes seven times out of eleven. His grandmamma tatted doilies with a whalebone hook, weighing her Gin in the barrows of her skirt, a look of deepest absorption on her hag-wearied face. His granddad spent Sunday afternoons sloughing the pump out back of the Hogshead, the proprietor promising him a slow pint and a package of saltine crisps, the stink of cabbage thickening the nighttime air, the unclipped hairs in his nose billeted with snot. He was born on the butcher’s block in the summer kitchen, the tiny hairs on his skull dewy with placental wash, the doctor stinking of saltine crisps and washtub Gin. His grandmother held the bottom half, his da the top, his mother squirming like an eel. His cone-shaped head was the first part of him to appear, the doctor callipering his skull with his grandmother’s corn tongs, then his shoulders, the umbilical cord twisted round his throat, his mamma screaming bloody murder. The doctor said he hadn’t delivered such a bad-tempered baby since he was held at gunpoint by the littlest dogman, his currish mother giving birth to a hirsute baby with gigantic ears and the remnants of a caudal tail.

The doctor delivered most of the children of the conurbation; many of whom grew impatient with life inside the tenements, leaving to find fame and fortune beyond the five-mile, only to return, cap in hand, to a city overrun with swindlers and cheats, a city on the verge of ruin and despoilment, where dogmen roamed the streets like packs of wolves and children begged for scraps under a yellow sky, their noses billeted with snot. The day the alms man was born his father swaddled him in burlap, loaded him into the back of his mule cart, and sent it caroming over the crags into the aqueduct.

The dream tells him little other than he is doomed to an unimpeachable dullness; a life of sorrow and debt. The dream: he is at home minding his own baseness, doing whatever the baseless do to wile away the time, when his older brother arrives on the doorstep, a squad of rowdies in tow. We want barbecued ribs! bellows one of the rowdies, what little hair he has on his head standing on end. Smothered in sauce! bellows a second. But how are we to spit them? asks a third. Why not use your brother? says a fourth. Yes, your brother says the second. We could push coat hangers through his shoulders. They’d make a fine spit. Fighting off the rowdies as best he could, threatening to stab his brother with a kitchen knife, he is overpowered by the rib-thirsty mob. While two rowdies hold him, the second and third pierce his shoulders with straightened coat hangers, his brother, a sibling grin on his bewhiskered face, watching on. They suspend him a pit of glowing coals, his arms and legs bound with basketball mesh, prodding and pushing him over the coals like a skewered pig, the hiss and sizzle of roasting flesh rivaling the heathenry of the Inquisition.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reminiscences

His father wore the same blue shirt day in and day out, the collar ringed with his own filth. Had he a mind to he’d tell him off this is what he’d say, ‘by Lord father but your shirt is filthy dirty’. His father’s blue shirt was manufactured by the Barking and Dagenham Shirt Co. The Barking and Dagenham Shirt Co., owned and operated by the Barking bros. of Dagenham Council, are known for their haughty craftsmanship and eye for detail. Over the door to the cutting-room, framed in oak, the wood buttering in the dovetails, are the following two quotations: “I did not receive my visitors with boisterous rapture as the bearers of any gifts of profit or fame” (Joseph Conrad, Some Reminiscences, 1912) and, “. . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone. . . .” (Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1902). As neither brother knew how to read the quotations fell on blind eyes.

Were they able to read, able to make out squiggles and dots, the words would have leaped out of their wooden frames, calling to arms the brothers against the impunity of falsifying the story of one’s life; the battle, if they had enlisted, having ended in their ruin. For the brothers, you see, were numbskulls, incapable of making sense of anything more challenging than a brothel address or the embossed face on a coin, which they did by touch, not sight, making their competency fraudulent, calculating at best. Frank Goya, a first-rate embosser and clerical tailor, has the needlework contract for the Vincennes Glove Co. He is a scoundrel and a mountebank, and undeserving of charity or good will! He has carious teeth and ill-defined features; a tomblike smile and bloodhound red eyes. He is to be avoided at all costs! Pray tell who? More people peopling an over-peopled world. This must stop! {Author’s aside: you must excuse my overzealousness; confession, so the rector told me, is good for the soul}.

Let us begin again: The sky appeared and disappeared leaving behind a streak of blue. ‘can’t you see his head is crooked? Now cradle the back of his head in your arms; now push, gently… that’s it, now you’ve got it’. He didn’t know whether he should pull or push, the half-dead corpse mumbling something in Gudrun, a altogether unpleasant parlance of constantans and misplaced vowels. ‘cradle, now pull!’ Liphook stood over the half-dead corpse whittling the point of a stick. Having been rousted from sleep by his grandmother’s foot kicking at his slumbering head, which she did without fail every morning, he felt none too solicitous towards any thing or one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Enscheda Apothecary

His grandfather bartered whole grain and rye seeds for Bocholt-made Limburg steel, convincing the blacksmith that his wife could use some vulgar flour for her biscuits. The blacksmith agreed, trading 27½ ounces of Bocholt steel for three sacks of whole grain, passing on the rye seeds which he said stuck to his wife’s dentures, “the insufferable cur”. There are coincidences in life that make your teeth ache. This, however, is not one of them. Cudgels were commonplace and found among all hooligan’s magazines, like battering rams and trebuchets, so making a claim as to their inimitableness is pure folly! The mercantilists are in cahoots with the industrialists, neither seeing the nonsensicality of their coalition. Nary a brainpan among them. Feel sorry for their children, probably haven’t eaten a decent meal in months. All embroiled in their coalition, making it hand over knuckle, sucking the lifeblood out of the gloving industry. The post diggers staged a strike; had to sidestep half-excavated holes on the way to vespers. Came close to turning an ankle! Left their shovels in a hurry to be the first at the union office. First cunt in line gets a saloon chit. Spend a dime on pale ale and pig’s-feet. Maybe a butter plate heaping with chitterlings, spleens, I hear say, are good for the heart and proper bone formation. Cunt Scheherazade eats ‘em like there’s no tomorrow, sucks the guts dry. Cunt doesn’t know the difference between lamb and mutton, uses the hotplate for boiling soaked bandages. Blood and chafed skin flying every which where. First one to the union hall gets a brand new hotplate, boil up a mess of oily shoulder. Old Overijssel lives above the Enscheda Apothecary with a blind dog, neither aware that the other is watching him. Though unable to see, the dog is sucking the lifeblood out of Old Overijssel. Before moving into the bedsit above the apothecary Old Overijssel worked as a fitter for the Vincennes Glove Co., retiring with a handshake and a cutout for the women’s red evening glove, the company’s top seller. Last one to the union office gets the dregs. Blue-fin eel, blacker than the ace of clubs. Don’t get much these days for a union chit. All hell broke loose. Dodgy cunts don’t know the difference between pork belly and Blue-fin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Troy Scheherazade

A few boxes of raisins; bastard needs his ears lowered. Covered in pocket lint, sticks to the roof of my gob. Cat strangler, seen him wring a few feline necks, pushes ‘em over the cornice and into the river. Tails white with plaster. Sells them to the Asians, make a wonton or soft roll with the not so bad parts. The sun bled yellow egg yolk. His father told him that if he sat under the biggest tree in the forest an apple would sooner or later fall on his head. ‘That’s how we know we’re down here and not up there’ said his father pointing a resin brown finger at the sky. ‘there’s only the apple and the serpent’ said his mother scolding his father, ‘now get in the house!’ He lined up the toffee and raisins on the floor next to his bed. He counted until he couldn’t stand counting any more. Five pieces of toffee and 27 raisins, each in its own tiny box. Taking into account the plumpness of the raisins he figured he could eat one raisin and one piece of toffee a day, the entire cache lasting 27½ days, longer if he broke the toffee into smaller pieces. The writing on the side of the box said, The Tuxtla Bros. Raisin Co., Chiapas Gutierrez, Mexico. 'The finest plumpest raisins grown and sundried with lots of nice plump sunshine'. Each tiny cardboard box carried within it a handful of plump sundried raisins, some so plump they looked more like plums than raisins.

He wrecked havoc wherever he went, smashing and wielding the cudgel his grandfather made him from a sledge of grainy oak. He and Troy Scheherazade, an uncomely boy with jug-handle ears and an ungainly smile, vandalized and laid waste to anyone who got in their way, using their cudgel sticks as batterers and swords.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pentland Mahaffy

…would have won a medal if it weren’t for the rum-fits. Had her all crippled and bent over. That winter Lela bought a pair of red gloves, the mercantilist offering to wrap them up and top off the package with a scissor-pulled bow. She chose instead to wear the gloves, clutching herself against the brisk weather on the other side of the belled door. The mercantilist lived with his ailing mother on the second floor across the hall from a woman who lived with a bluefish. Neither he or his sick mother ever saw the fish that it lived across the hall on the second floor with the big-boned woman. Taking their neighbor’s word for it who had seen the fish, they agreed that there was indeed a fish in the apartment across the hall, but as for anything else, anything of importance, they hadn’t the foggiest. Sunday mornings their neighbor took her cat for a walk, clomping up and down the stairs like a bull elephant, cat in toe. The owners of Plunker’s Market kept a dog in the crawlspace beneath the stairs, its snout, were one inclined to look, visible from the top of the stoop. The dog was called Temecula, named after the mercantilist’s wife’s mother. The woman across the hall from the bluefish was indifferent to the dog, climbing and descending the stoop in a hurry when she took her cat out for a walk. No one cared, not even the harridan’s sister who lived in the apartment above the mercantilist and his wife, or if they did they, did a fine job of pretending they didn’t. Everything was taken for granted, and those that weren’t were taken with a grain of salt. When he was a boy Poldy bought penny-candy from Plunker’s Market, each treasured piece placed one by one into brown paper sacks, the counter-person trying to pinch his cheek as he tried valiantly to escape through the belled-door, the ballooning sack clutched in his tiny hands. When he got home his da would take the jelly beans and mojos, redskin peanuts and licorice, leaving him the hard toffee and a few boxes of raisins. Over the door, fished in cobwebs, was a sign that read “for the corner boys who spit into the Liffey” (The Rev. Sir John Pentland Mahaffy) Remorselessly he set about the day a second time, his hat sleeved in his armpit, the corner boys gobbing, their youth belying their ignorance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Esther Pivner

They came by oxcart, by foot and on their knees, people so grisly and depraved they left a terrible taste in your thoughts. His father had warned him of the coming of ‘the many’, the hordes escaping across the five-mile and into the cities. ‘The five-mile will not hold forever’ his father warned. ‘sooner or later we’ll be overrun with them, the same people we forced out wanting backing in’. His father squinted, his upper lip curling like a beheaded worm, splitting in segments. He never thought he’d see the day when being sane would be a shortcoming, as commonplace as silk gloves and woolen trousers. Coro Falcon wears knee-britches with candy-coloured stockings, the tiny hairs on her shins swimming in nylon. Father but why? My son, that you’ll learn when you grown old; like a puny stalk of celery. His father wore gray trousers, the inseams grayed with Hawken’s plug. Father but you’ll surely choke on it! Never you mind, (mijn zoon), I’m hardier than an oak; spinier too. Esther Pivner, big-boned and prone to fits of hysteria, lives above Plunker’s Market with a blue goldfish. His da used to lay-in with her Sunday mornings when his ma was busy cleaning the dust in between the pews. She used a duster with a silver handle; the kind used by street-sweepers and old-fashion charwomen. The kind his own grandmamma used to clean the ceiling and the bottom of the cupboards. She was prone to rum-fits and horse-coughing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mijn Zoon

Not the man in the hat (Poldy Magyar), nor the weekly fistfights held in Landesschule Pforta gymnasium were affected by these extraneous goings-on’s, it just was as it was, the rest of the world going about its business. His father felt the violation in his head, the talismanic beginning of the madness that was to plague him for the rest of his life. But father, the goose will surely shit all over the floor. Stop your bellyaching, shit is good for the milkman. Keeps him hale and hardly. Hardly what, father? Hardly worth the bother to give it a second’s thought. Father, you’re always goosing around, I can’t understand a word you say. It’s better that way my boy; you’ll understand it when you get older. But what if I don’t? You will, and you will enjoy it. He wondered how her sagging breasts must feel trapped under her blouse, hanged men swaying on the gallows.

Frederica Cárdenas wears shiny shoes with beanpole heels. Abel Rotwang hasn’t a pot to mik-chə-rāt in, piss yellower than buttercups trickling down the inseam of his trousers. My boy (mijn zoon) never underestimate the imbecility of people! Ja vader ja. Hij leefde in een twee kamer bedsit, de bank stijver dan gematteerd paardenhaar. He wondered if her legs rubbed together when she sat in church, the tiny hairs on the insides of her thighs chaffing against the pew wood. His grandmamma had oniony breath, the fine hairs on her upper lip sweaty with uiensap. Pinesap, that’s what it was, not uiensap. His father felt the contravention in his head, the tiny hairs in his nose clotting and twisting like tree branches. Onderschat nooit de domheid van mensen (mijn jongen)! He never forgot the terror-struck look on his grandfather’s face when he choked on a plug of Hawken’s, his throat squeezing like a boa constrictor, his eyes nearly popping out of his head.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Henotheist Smith

The priest told the same lies over and over again, his altar skirt mulching up his hairless white legs. Afternoons when the church was emptied of sinners, a few stragglers hiding under the ciborium licking the pot clean, the priest salted his white hairless legs with chalk dust, hoping to bring a fine sheen to his once youthful gams. Hidden under the altar box, wrapped in sackcloth, was a copy of Ibsen’s 'When We Dead Awaken', the Henotheist Smith stealing into the sanctuary after vespers to read by candlelight. The Poitou-Charentes-Poitou children’s choir sing evensong, the youngest castrato devastating to pieces the chandelier over the Baptismal. ‘Never underestimate the stupidity of children’ his da said, his head pressed between his hands like soft cheese. The children’s choir wear burgundy robes and gray stockings stitched from unprocessed wool, corduroy overcoats and tare sandals. The youngest chorales’, a slight boy named Oporto, possessed such a piercing castrato the other boys called him Voz Alta, he with the high voice. Mr. Artsybashev, the leader of the Poitou-Charentes-Poitou children’s choir, though never married, was known to keep company with Greta Felisberto, the pianist for the girls’ chorus, a plump angry woman with oniony breath.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hamlet’s Father

On Saturdays his father slept until eight o’clock. Upon awaking, which he did slowly, like a slowcoach with a sore tooth, he would order his children to line up at the foot of the bed, then taking a deep breath, his wooly chest rising and plummeting, tell them what he wanted for breakfast: skillet-fried liver with onions and garlic, which he expected to be served in bed. Using his barrel-chest as a table he ate like a ravenous animal, forking slivers of pinkish liver into his mouth, scabs of burnt onion and garlic slickening his lips and the gray stubble on his trebled chin. ‘Most people in this world are bit-players, so don’t expect much from them’ he would tell his children, the youngest sucking his middle and next-to-middle fingers. On Sundays his father admonished the priest for telling the same lies over and over again, the congregation too frightened to stand up for the priest or silence his father’s weekly tirade. After Mass his father would go hunting in the fields behind the woolshed, the crack and boom of gunfire besetting the calmness with agitation and terror. His father had no idea who Hamlet’s father was, and if he had, he wouldn’t have cared. Considering the deficit of most people, bit-players, rogues and hooligans, he had little to feel terrible about. Afternoons, when the stink of skillet-burnt liver and onions filled the house with an organ stench, his father went hunting in the clearing behind the woolshed, his little brother sitting in the corner by the stove sucking his thumb and next-to-middle finger. The hog pit behind the woolshed stank to high heaven, piles of dead rotting feces pickling the dry brown earth. The unfed hogs grunted and bellyached, the biggest one ramming its head against the pen, its eyes two black holes of rage. His father’s beard smelled of organ meat and diced onions. ‘Don’t expect much; your life will be less disappointing’ his father’s eyes two black holes of dirt and liver grease.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dieter Kopf

The Absinthe burned like Hades, the taste of wormwood and cloves in his throat making speech all but impossible. Considering the paucity of most people he didn’t feel all that dreadful about the fact he couldn’t make heads nor tails of most things. Franz Alexander Platz and Dieter Kopf crossed the bridge (the rickety bridge; for this fact is duly important) that crosses across the aqueduct spanning the five-mile and no-man’s-land. Having both abandoned the Herstal Liege troop years earlier, they now travel by foot bringing their hodgepodge of pantomiming and dramatic asides to whomever have eyes and ears to listen with. The first time Poldy saw the Hans Lamprecht troop, for they called themselves the Hans Lamprecht troop so as not to be confused with the Hans Lampeel troop, who were hacks, the leader of the troop known for his dislike for Hamlet’s father, whom he felt was a bit-player, and as with all bit-players dispensable, he experienced for the first time that feeling deep in his guts that would follow him for the rest of his life. Considering the deficiency of most people he didn’t feel all that terrible about the fact he couldn’t make heads nor tails of most things.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Green Fairy

He thought until his head felt like it was going to split open, the bone spurs in his jaw aching. The spurs, a gift from a streetwalker with a garish hole for a mouth, who upon hearing him call her a cunt slapped him across the face with her purse, cracking his molar in two, a puss canker the size of a walnut effecting his speech, which now came out in half-vowels and constantans, his father’s hopes that one day his son might take up the opera or speak in tongues squashed forever. He walked slapdash idly up the sideways, his hat squeezed like a ripe orange under his arm, the brim folded over levering his armpit and bicep. ‘never again will I listen to an imbecile… after all any man worth his weight in salt knows that imbeciles can never be trusted, even a well dressed one’. Across the sideways the harridan’s sister let go with a loud commanding howl, his ears crackling like tinder. Unaware that he was sinking into a cesspit of despair, like a man resigned to failure, someone whom life’s lottery had missed over yet continued to encourage, he ordered a glass of Absinthe and sat dejectedly in the corner by the stove. I will overcome this, he thought, the corners of his mouth awakened by the Green Fairy.

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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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