The First Word

 

I haven’t yet found the first word

The one that validates all others

So when I move my mouth to speak

I reveal the tragedy of empty sound

 

Would I accept this, my last decision?

I would walk to the quiet mountains

I would cut off my tongue and eat it there

It would better serve me in the form of food

Chase

 

I lay still, toppled clay golem
You sleep, deep and animated
Against my joyless insomnia

(Dreaming of rabbits?) No, bone-saw
Flee, they turn and see you, now flee
Flee on short limbs, four red stalks

In my ballooning, musing ego
I put these tremors in you
This brooding traversed two skins, osmotic

Plasticine bull-demons, horned men
Stalk through blackened infirmaries
Casting voices of lost family

My violence becomes your twisted wrist
My frustration becomes your bruxing
I am fearful and so you shiver

Impossible deserts, impossible sea
Tunnel through glass dust dunes
Paint tell-tale scars across soiled skin

 

Jazz since nineteen-fifty-nine

 

Rounded off, penned in

By the careless chattering

Of lesser city royalty

And aspiring champagne socialists

Clumsy-drunken

The five steps of composition

 

The evening staggers on

On in broken movements

As convoluted as it needs to be

Teasing arrangements

Simple as sweat on walls

Sixty solid years of cigar smoke

Precipitate in a glass

On a lung, under tongue

Inside an ear canal

 

If I died now

It would be as a big, bald man of sixty

Face down in a bowl of lukewarm linguine

French ‘seventy-five in my stiffened claw

Disinterested mistress by my side

My face a mask of contentment

Her menu masking embarrassment

Old Marat

 

Scatters rice for ungrateful birds

Feeds the three black strays of the disused lot

At home, he was a shoemaker

Lost a finger to the machine of his trade

Paid for his mistress to join him

She took flight as soon as she’d landed

 

 

A Hanging

 

I am hanging from an elaborate wooden structure in a featureless tundra. My arms are bound behind my back. I am being used as a live counterweight for a noose. I am unsure of my relationship with the person who is to be hanged, but I sense we were once allies. Possibly even friends. I do not know the circumstances which led to my bondage but given that I am being spared the penalty of death, it may be the case that I was the one who betrayed them.

A small crowd has gathered. Men in dark blue uniforms bring a young man towards the giant weather vane from which I am suspended. The young man has dark hair and eyes, tanned skin. He is dressed in sandy-brown fatigues. From the severity of his punishment, I infer that he has rebelled against the dominant regime.

The man is raised to the noose, causing every finger of the abstract scaffold to sway and buck, triggering a counter-force from an opposing limb. Only my legs can move freely, and though I splay them in different directions in an attempt to steady myself in the air, I cannot stop my body from oscillating and rotating at random.

Before long, the man is being hanged. He speaks to the crowds in a way not befitting a man approaching death — he talks with ease. He jeers at them. He almost breaks into a laugh.

Meanwhile I, in a futile attempt at protest, stretch one leg out and try to stomp on the head of one of my captors, but he is positioned in such a way that I can only pester him with light taps and nudges. He looks up at me with murderous ire and I am reminded that they would readily kill me too for the slightest transgression.

The audience, silent and stoic, frown at the hanging man. A woman with long dark hair and sharp, aquiline features stands out in the crowd. She has a sympathetic air — could she be an ally or even a lover to the hanging man? Her expression morphs into a sneer. She begins yelling at the doomed man, taunting him, relishing his death. I am suddenly aware of a popular stigma against us, we captives. The crowd came here to shame us.

END