the autogeography of a no/body
I plough through obediently,
concerns and pride scattered on the floor
like spilt spoons,
Somewhere along the line,
(factory, thin blue)
I swallow something,
and it don't stick in my gullet,
cos I can deep throat you,
even though you touch my vomit reflex,
buried right back.
You make me heave.
There was this one time,
and I thought you wasn't Jesus,
cos you didn't spend forever
telling me what I did wrong.
like a hangover,
and I swore
I wouldn't do it
I saw Joan of Arc,
just how you like them,
and then realised she was a peasant,
just how you don't like them,
spluttering their corn-fed
and fat ankled philosophy,
she was beautiful man,
defiant as a Kalashnikov,
indiscriminate and messy,
and that's how you like your Russians,
rolled sweetly and lit and the ends,
no idea really darlin',
you don't give me many these days,
not as a contact sport,
or any sort of gymnastic that I can score
on my volt metre,
although i found the resistance,
marked with a Greek letter
that I didn't understand at first,
until I made a phone call
and looked up the manual.
They don't make a handbook
for this sort of shit do they?
I wish my dad was alive.
I wish I'd killed him anyway.
I'm no good at endings,
some false conceit that
doesn't suit me,
I'm too big and lumpy …
I don't know man,
it's just a fucking mystery,
how we got here
and to this.
I didn't have a map,
and what you had you'd scored through
with a million scratches,
skin and paper,
it's the same thing.
I can't find anything without a map.
The compass always points north,
the arrow's not important.
Come get me,
and drag me down the stairs,
with my head bumping off every tread,
into your unconscious conscious,
split my skull so you can find a way in.
I once said to you
“You won't break my heart”,
and you replied,
“You're already broken,
I'm playing with the pieces”.
Madame Regenbogen hid in the restroom, dabbing, powdering and patting her nose, waiting until Monsieur Noir had vacated the premises. She wiped away a tell tale dribble of clear mucus with a fine, cotton handkerchief. Borne up by the wings of new found confidence she stepped out of the cubicle and then retrieved her coat from the cloakroom. She hoped she was not too late, that Monsieur would not have disappeared into the night already, but the restaurant sat squat in the middle of a long, straight road so she believed she would have no difficulty in seeing where he had gone.
He, in the meantime, had hidden his annoyance well when presented with the bill. 'Why didn't she go the whole hog and order lobster,' he thought, emptying first his wallet and then his pockets to pay. “Merci,” the waiter said with a sarcasm only the French can muster. Monsieur frowned, stood quickly and then strode out of the restaurant, omitting to leave a tip. Gallic nostrils flared. Tight smiles danced around thin lips. 'What can you expect from a man who doesn't even wear a tie?'
'Fuck 'em. Fuck her.' “FUCK OFF!” he shouted at a taxi driver, who slowed to a crawl in order to ask Monsieur … “Are you fucking deaf? Fuck off.” The taxi driver shook his head and accelerated away. Monsieur stamped through puddles.
She saw him in the distance, coat open into the wind. 'Silly man, he'll get wet,' but then she remembered she was not his mother. His mother, as he never tired of telling her, “Was a beauty queen, once,” small, delicate, immaculate.
Madame Regenbogen followed, her heels click-clacking on the pavement. Monsieur's purposeful stride ensured she had to almost run in order to keep up with him, which meant she also had to hold her hat on her head with one arm while attempting to tame her rebellious handbag with the other. She began to sweat.
He paused. She shrank into a shop doorway. He lit a cigarette. The sudden spark illuminated an area around him. She saw him exhale before he cut the flame short. Turning up the collar of his coat, Monsieur set off again, walking a few yards before turning a corner. She would turn the same corner some minutes later.
Her fingers shook as she pressed the bell. A loud ringing emanated from inside the guest house. Madame fidgeted, wiped her nose again and ran her tongue over her teeth to make sure no lipstick had stained her winsome “Surprise!” smile. 'He'll be mad,' she thought, 'I'll apologise, for the meal, for everything. I'll apologise and then he'll relent'. She smoothed her skirt but was frightened to touch her hair. Rain did not suit her.
Inside, old Madame Blumenthal stirred. Callers at this time of night, while not unknown, were rarely welcomed. She knocked a sleeping cat off her knees and brushed its hairs from her black bouclé lap. In his room Monsieur Noir poured himself a whiskey. 'Three fingers. Fuckit.' He filled the glass almost to the top. 'Damn woman. Damn women.' He flicked on the radio. Jazz crackled into the room.
'Come on, come on.' Madame Regenbogen pushed the bell again, this time harder and for longer. She examined the door. There was a large gap between it and the frame. Two plates of dimpled glass set into green, peeling wood. Through the dimples she saw an old lady approaching, grossly malformed, fractured and bobbled. She heard the sagging flip, flop, flap of slippers against the floor. Vague mumblings drifted out to Madame Regenbogen's ears. She arranged her face into a cordial greeting. “Bon soir, I know it's late, but Monsieur Noir left something,” she hurtled around her mind looking for the appropriate words, “at my …”, the landlady blinked, “my hotel,” the landlady's eyes widened, “this afternoon,” Madame Regenbogen put in quickly, “and I think he might …” her voice trailed off.
“Wait there.” The door threatened to shut unceremoniously.
“If I could just come in out of the rain?”
Monsieur Noir appeared some moments later, shirtless, hair ruffled and with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “Yes?”
It was Madame Regenbogen's turn to blink.
“Oh what the hell,” he said, holding open the door, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and gesturing that she could enter. “How did you find me?”
“I followed you.”
“Of course you did.”
“I wanted to know where you live.”
“Did it occur to you that if I wanted you to know I'd have given you the address?”
She brushed past him. “It was rude for you only to give me a postal box.”
“Look around you,” he said. She did, at the stained wallpaper, dirty floor and chipped paintwork, “If you weren't so self obsessed you'd fucking get it”. He slammed the door and sloped off down the hallway. “Are you coming then?” She fell in behind him.
Beige, brown and green pervaded the whole building. His room was painted the colour of pale leaves. A red leather armchair sulked in the corner, its horsehair stuffing hanging out. A small rug, with tattered fringes, lay on the floor. Under the window a modest desk, perhaps oak, supported an old manual typewriter and a confused sheaf of papers. A cast iron bed filled the rest of the room. Books were piled everywhere, spines facing outwards. She bent to pick one up. “Heart of Darkness, I don't believe I've read it.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Now why doesn't that surprise me?” and took the thin novel out of her hand. “He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it.” He slammed the book shut. “What do you want, and if you say 'to talk' I swear you're leaving immediately.”
“Have you got anything to drink?”
“Whiskey, straight up.”
“That will do nicely.”
“So?” he said, his back to her as he poured.
“Can I sit here?”
Looking over his shoulder he noticed she didn't indicate the bed. “Sure.”
She took out her compact. “Do you want some?”
“How much you got?”
“Enough for tonight.”
She passed him the flat, oval accessory. “Careful, the lock's a bit stiff.”
He went to his bedside table and took out a razor and unframed mirror. Gripping the head of the razor he unscrewed the handle and released the blade.
Five minutes later Monsieur Noir was licking the mirror. He rubbed his hand over his jaw line, up his cheek and then propped the mirror against the typewriter. “I hope you're not doing that on my account,” she said.
He didn't reply, instead he angled the desk lamp, reassembled the razor and stretched the skin over his bones, remolding his face.
Scrape, scrape, scrape.
Madame flicked the heel of her shoe on and off her foot.
Scrape, scrape, scrape.
Monsieur passed his palm over his chin.
Scrape, scrape, scrape.
“Is there any more whiskey?”
“Over there,” he said, jerking his head towards the bedside table.
Madame refilled her glass and then walked toward the desk. She reached out her hand to pick up one of the sheets of paper. Before her fingers made contact Monsieur snatched out. “Don't touch,” he said, “Don't fucking touch my shit”.
“I was just going to read.”
“I know it's yours, that's why I want to read it.”
“Can't you leave anything alone?”
She pursed her lips. “What's the matter with you?”
“Look lady, I didn't invite you here.”
“Lady?” she laughed.
“I'm trying to be polite,” he spat back.
“Well fucking try harder.”
“Right, so that's why you're here. You wanted to shout at me in the restaurant but you couldn't.”
Madame put her glass down deliberately and made to turn away. Monsieur grabbed her wrist. She balled her hand into a fist and attempted to shake her arm free. He held her fast, his flashing eyes meeting her angry glare.
“Let go of me,” she said quietly, jaw clenched. He squeezed, imperceptibly at first but then tighter and tighter. “Let go of me,” her voice had risen an octave. “Let go of me or I'll scream.”
Monsieur swung her round, pulled her arm up behind her back, slapped his hand over her mouth and said “Go on then”.
She breathed furiously through her nose, nostrils flaring, working her lips back to expose her teeth. And then she bit him.
Everything was released all at once. He stepped back involuntarily. She sagged instantly, hair falling into her face. Her half empty glass was knocked from the desk. Papers took flight and scattered themselves at their feet. Whiskey splashed with wings. She turned to face him only to find herself looking in another direction when his hand landed, open palmed, on her cheek. She gripped the edge of the desk to prevent herself from falling. Monsieur had re-covered himself. He stood next to her clothed in naked aggression. His muscles twitched. His face was hot. His breath came in wordless snatches.
Without ceremony he lifted Madame's skirt. She struggled against him but he pinned her to the edge of the desk, his hips and hands forcing her into the wood. He wound his fingers into her hair, at the base of her scalp, and pulled. At first she resisted, but he bent her forwards, until her head hit the keys of his typewriter. fhgityellgihsifdlh fgdmncnvbbnfic ibhths vnhdighg. “You're hurting me.”
fdklsadhfibin;a t ksdigh siagasdkdfgi.
“Do you want me to stop?”
Madame Regenbogen didn't reply.
“Usual rules,” he said.
There was a soft hiss as his belt slid through the carriers of his trousers. Madame put her elbows on the desk and squeezed her eyes tight shut. Monsieur pushed the typewriter back and repositioned the mirror. “Open your eyes.” As she did so a car passed in the street outside and splashed its headlights all over the walls. “Look.” She glanced into the mirror. It was too close to her face. She could see skin blemishes, open pores, crow's feet. Madame turned away. Monsieur, gripping her hair, pulled her head back round. “Look!” This time she focused on him bent behind her. His eyes, dark, incohate, staring right into the mirror, a mild projection reflected in his irises. He flicked his tongue quickly over his lips. Perfectly even teeth.
“I can see you,” she said, carefully, deliberately.
“Watch me.” He stood, his face disappearing from her view. Swinging his arm back the belt slithered against thin air noiselessly. He stopped. The leather dangled like a held breath. He stroked her exposed buttocks. His hand was warm. He lent forwards again, meeting her eyes in the mirror. “OK?” he asked. She nodded her assent.
The first lick landed. Madame sucked in, pushed out her ribs, thrust back her shoulders. Monsieur hardened. The second lick left a straight red mark, although not immediately. She bit down but raised her head to look at her own reflection dead on. The third lick sounded loudly and mixed with Monsieur's grunted appreciation. It was a short, sharp grunt. Unconscious. It had left his mouth before the form of tongue and words could discipline it. He ran his fingers through his hair. A single bead of sweat trickled from his brow, down past his eye socket and onto his cheek. It looked like a wayward tear.
He bent again, the skin of his belly passing over her buttocks. Kissing the nape of her neck, where her hair met her skin. She relaxed. Someone upstairs clattered across their bare floorboards in heeled shoes. A moth buzzed against the desk lamp. He flicked it away. On its return he caught it in his hand and held it briefly before slamming it against the wood. “Don't move.” She could hear his steps change as he proceeded across the room. “Read it.” The book was placed in front of her, open. He squashed down the spine to preserve the chosen page.
“Read it,” he growled.
“A kind of joy descends from the physical world.”
“I am attached to the earth.”
A minor squeal escaped Madame's mouth, but she swallowed it. “The rocks.”
Monsieur paused and took a swig from his glass, bending his lips inwards, sucking on the liquor.
“Today plunge through vertical stages to a depth of three thousand metres.” Madame's buttocks reddened. “This vision, which terrifies the savages, inspires no terror in me. I know that there is no monster hidden in the abyss; there is only fire, the original fire.”
“You can go now.”
it's easy, you just walk away, on both your legs, face bent to the ground, shoulders hunched against the wind, hands in pockets.
rejection comes in many forms, robotic, hypnotic, slightly chaotic misunderstandings and blanched, plastic judgments. hardly anyone ever says what they THINK or how they FEEL. instead we're bound up in mysteries and miseries of politics and hyperbolic necessities, delivered through clenched teeth and arses.
i should have a mule to hoik all this baggage.
today i woke up crying with the weather, slack, and saggy like my luggage. i don't think i've tied it on tightly enough, words and stories and MEanings are falling out of my bags, rough woved hemp, damp from rain, frayed and unraveling in parts. and i don't have a saddle, no point, only got a mule. stubborn creature.
there's three pictures on my wall, kids hand prints, green, red and purple. we made them some christmases ago when their paws were small enough to fit on to those little rectangles of cheap, factory produced canvas. i inherited my hands. tiny. overly lined. they look like they've been in a wash tub twelve hours a day for twenty years. i was born to work. used to love that, in by nine, an hour for lunch, home by six. we all had our own mugs. i read take a break then. kept my nails nice. filing was my real joy though. everything has its place and everything in its place.
these days i'm sending stuff off. STUFF. i hunt around and find someone who might read it and accept it. i go through their lists of what they want. i edit and re-edit and scowl at the senseless dribbling. i think i've become alzheimer's, jibbering, jabbering, babbling. fiona was saying about that dreadful realisation, when she was banging her head over and over into a wall, how she suddenly knew that she wasn't going to go mad. it would've been a relief to go mad.
i LOVE fiona.
so yeah, i'm banging my head against a brick wall, figuratively not literally, and i just KNOW that there's no escape. maybe i should move sideways a bit, or something, find the bloody door, kick that down. OR i could walk away, on both my legs, face bent to the ground, shoulders hunched against the wind, hands in pockets.
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Damien Hirst is an artist of some renown. I saw him recently on TV, talking to Kirsty Walk, about his work, his motivations, his … what is it? What do they have? He was talking about himself, how he sees the world, what he thinks.
I'd never really rated him, mostly because his world and my world haven't exactly intersected in any meaningful way. Does art have to do that? Speak to you about you but in a different voice? All that bollocks about perspective, retrospective, irrespective. No idea. Literally. Or perhaps just ideas? 'Just' ideas, as if there's a value judgment attached to them?
Hirst pissed me off because he made money. That's stupid. I mean I don't have to love the Ferrari driver in order to see that the engine's pretty neat.
So yeah, I decided to go to London to see 'For the Love of God', a diamond encrusted skull. Essentially, I knew it was worth a lot of money, forty million, although I'm not sure whether that's pounds sterling or dollars, and I wanted to stare at forty million. I've never seen that sort of money, or thought I hadn't until I was standing outside Buck Palace, at which point it all became rather obvious to me. Forty fucking million, but probably still a drop in the ocean – apparently some geezers lost seventy million in cocaine off the south coast of Ireland yesterday. Forty million. Seventy Million. No-one owns that. I wondered if Hirst even had ownership over his own work. That would be odd. Right from the outset for it not to be his. Where does he stand in relation to it then? Who does it belong to? Mostly importantly, why did he make it?
London's a strange place, full and empty all at the same time. Everything's wide their, roads, arches, boys. Some of the buses are even concertinaed in the middle with big bits of bendy rubber. Juggernaut buses. And red, like you could miss them in the first place, but they stand out against the grey skies and blanched stone buildings. London's got a certain scale to it. Perhaps it's designed to be imposing.
We went to Buck Palace in the rain, sort of unintentionally, we were just walking past. Lots of people, mainly Japanese I think, all pointing their cameras. The lack of security surprised me. Some podgy looking coppers lounging about against their van over the other side of the road. We don't scare too easily, or if we do we don't show it. How the hell did the Luftwaffe miss Buck Palace? It's kind of comforting to see Queen Vic, dourly rotund, sitting on her marble throne, legs too open really, huge heaving breasts. She wasn't exactly a pretty woman. Don't suppose she needed to be. The statues surrounding her. A woman with a lion holding a sickle and a sheaf of corn. A man with a hammer. I think he had a lion as well. Just fascinated by the hammer and sickle.
I couldn't remember. I knew I'd been to Buck Palace before, with my Dad, but it didn't look the same today, smaller, bigger, a different shape altogether. It wasn't until we crossed over to walk up The Mall and I glanced over my shoulder that I realised it was a question of perspective. We'd approached from the side, found ourselves at the corner, everything had been seen from where we stood. Looking back, in all senses of the word, I remembered that with Dad we'd walked down The Mall. Buck Palace sits at the bottom of it, presenting itself to the world with squat dignity.
And so to Trafalgar Square, along a wide path of flattened, red grit. A cream building ran down the side of the road. Nothing to say what it was or was was. London has a history. We got lost then. He tried to make me 'drift', but I don't drift, I sort of stomp about in mild, impatient confusion. I'm not a very relaxed person. 'Go with the flow' isn't my motto, probably because I'm not a dippy hippy. Dunno. Drifting is just an anathema to me. Things should be purposefully on purpose without a purpose. I can wrap them all up neat then, tie a big bow. Disordered stuff bothers me. I need to know where I'm going and how long it's going to take to get there. Flexibility makes me think of gymnasts. That Russian woman, K K, something archi or okov. Can't remember her name.
We found the gallery, found somewhere to have lunch. Sorted.
Expectation, what of it? I was just looking to stare at forty million. We laughed outside. I stroked his hairy belly as we stood in some spitting rain. I thought vaguely that it might be interesting to rob the place. The security guards looked kind of young and fresh faced. The guides looked like they wouldn't be able to find their way into or out of … well anything really. I show my age in my prejudices I expect, expectantly, expectorantly.
Two minutes, I knew we'd only get two minutes. Well, actually, I thought five, but the lady with the impossibly thick hair and Spanishy accent said two. The room was dark, absolutely black, in the centre, on a pedestal (of course), in a box, there it was … Not forty million, I didn't even see the forty million, instead a shining skull, lit by sword shafts. Instantly I was muted, deference, and a large emotional response – which I hadn't expected. There to see, observe, be part of the spectacular spectacle, not to be effected/affected – a philosopher will be along shortly to explain the affect, I've never got it but, there again, I don't 'get' a lot of shit.
People crowded to the front so I went round the back, the smooth run of the skull into the neck that wasn't there. The way the light bounced off 'the object' meant it became projected. Darkness in the room focused the image. And there it sat, all waiting to be watched. Admiration didn't even come into it. I could've cried. Something stole my cynical tongue clicking and just made me want to react, purely physically and with a lot of adjectives.
At the front, thinking maybe I could look inside it, but it was all so on the outside, everything, the diamonds, the box, the people staring in, history folded back on itself, except for those teeth, set into subtle cement, not quite white, definitely not shining. Jack Nicholson don't come here.
In the pictures I'd seen the 'face' seemed to be smiling, a morbid grin, victorious in a way, don't ask me what way, victory is always sort of hollow, a bit like a skull I guess. I looked up his nose, and he was a he, I couldn't see woman in him at all. I looked up his nose and it was encrusted with diamonds. Inside my nose it's fleshy and pulpy and not very valuable. It's valuable to me. When I was thirteen I had to have an operation. Polyps. They banged me out with general anaesthetic and I woke up to find lint packed up both nostrils and trailing into my mouth. After two days they took this out. I bled, everywhere, fresh spurts of bright red blood. I screamed. I don't have diamonds up my nose.
The dead, yes, they're never quiet, even those that didn't have that much to say in life. I wondered whether it was a real skull under all those diamonds. I rather suspect it was. Fakery didn't seem to be the exercise here.
Diamonds, for engagement, for long marriage, dug out of the ground by miners paid a pittance, stolen and sold. Can't help but think of the Kohinoor. There was a big diamond on the forehead of the skull, right where the third eye might be, if it exists – perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn't, but the diamond's definitely there, like an egg, glinting off in all directions.
I'm writing this and I'm biting my nails, because I'm trying to get into words something that's purely visual. How can I say what I saw. There was this and then there was this and then I felt like this and then I made my body do this and then the woman called us out and it was light again and the skull was behind me, with its forty million, that wasn't forty million anymore, and i was walking down a corridor and almost forgot to go into the gallery and i couldn't speak, because everything had got stuck in my head, like a giant marble, thinking about this thing that i'd seen but that i couldn't look at as if it was a thing that you can say 'it's this thing' and make it into a thing that's a thing that you can have in your thing wardrobe to pull out like a new dress at a party. 'Oh, I saw this thing, the new Hirst thing, and it was thing blah thing blah thing and I really thought thing blah thing blah thing'.
I saw the Hirst skull and it blew me away and I can't explain it. I took some pictures when I was in London. They bear no relation to anything. There isn't a narrative. Life's not some big fucking story.
Oh yeah, I nearly forget the most important part. It's called 'For the Love of God'. I didn't get it til afterwards, when I heard it. That's what people SAY, for the love of God. That's what people mean.