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FlashNano Day 10: Dear America

11/11/2018

Dear America,

I hope that you are all well and as you wake up this morning you are grateful for being able to open your eyes and be with your loved ones. I also hope the coffee is good, the pancakes soft and the leaves swept from the yard.

I’m writing from a little house in West Yorkshire in England. The day is grey overhead and you can just about see the foreboding Pennine Hills. It’s cold too, not the kind of day to go searching for Cathy or Heathcliff. 

Today is Armistice Day. The 100th commemoration of the end of the First World War. We wear poppies every year to mark this anniversary, I wonder what you do over there to remember.

It was the worst of wars, millions died in the most atrocious circumstances. Led by leaders in self interest who treated young men as cattle to the slaughter. The pain and the sense of anger has become magnified as the  the years go by. This was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars’ but it didn’t, did it? Perhaps wars will never cease. It’s in our DNA to harm.

Your President is here at the moment, in Europe. He has tweeted ‘That it is great to be here to celebrate the end of the First World War’. It’s upset a few (well a lot actually) because we do not celebrate the slaughter of the innocent, we commemorate. He does have a difficult time with language, doesn’t he? 

Also, your President did not visit a wreath laying ceremony yesterday  afternoon to remember the American fallen because it was raining. He stayed in his hotel room and watched TV instead. It has really angered many here and all over Europe . People think that he has no respect for humanity, for history, for life or death. 

The First World War was also famous for its poetry that was written in the trenches. Here’s one for you to read over breakfast.

Sodium Songs 

Excrement drifting streets

pushed by forty five 

degree winds

and needle rain 

from an icy syringe.

 

The nameless

are encouraged

by the godless.

 

A conflict between

nation, desire and

reason.

Oh tattoo of youth!

 Your journeys to glory

ignite for the last time

in monochrome bedlam.

 

These sodium songs

that cheer bloody

cacophonies.

 

These songs that 

chaperone death knells

and fertilise poppy fields.

It’s moving isn’t it? Millions of men died in the pouring rain and your President cannot be bothered to turn up and show respect for them because of a light drizzle falling in France this morning.

Test yourselves today, America. Ask yourself is this the man you want to represent you, to lead you? To take you into or deter you from wars, to look after your children? 

Mr Trump is despised in Europe and this is reflecting on our love for you, as people of a great nation.

Ask yourself  today please.

With love

The United Kingdom and Europe.

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Sodium Songs

Excrement drifting streets

pushed by forty five 

degree winds

and needle rain 

from an icy syringe.

 

The nameless

are encouraged

by the godless.

 

A conflict between

nation, desire and

reason.

 

Oh tattoo of youth!

 

Your journeys to glory

ignite for the last time

in monochrome bedlam.

 

These sodium songs

that cheer bloody

cacophonies.

 

These songs that 

chaperone death knells

and fertilise poppy fields.

FlashNano Day 8: Red Lights

It was the last night of the tour and soon they would leave Mansfield. The lighting and sound rig would be packed away for a week. Then it would all start again, another band in another broken town. 

Tribute acts were where the money was these days, he understood that. He didn’t like it but he was grateful that it put a roof over his head, food on his table and stopped the loneliness. 

He faded the lights up to rose red and triggered the smoke machines as the final song started. He thought he could see her swaying in the thin audience, raising her hands to the mirrorball. But this happened every bloody night regardless of where they were. Runcorn, Rotherham or Basildon, she was always there.  

It happened between them only the once. A freezing night in Paris. They were the old days, the days of the real thing. No wigs and no taped backing tracks.  

On that particular night she’d told him that he had got lucky, that her eyes, heart and body were set on the bass player or the drummer. She said she’d take on anyone at this hour though, on account of the coming storm. 

FlashNano Day 7: Henry Miller at Denny’s

O.K. So we are driving to Sacramento, the usual crew. Liz, Ethan Hawke, Paula me and you. We stop at Denny’s for something to eat. A shake, a bake and a bellyache.

Ethan Hawke tells me to look in the corner and I can’t believe it. A man, old and ruined looms over his coffee cup reading a paperback. I can’t read the title, something by George Eliot. ‘Middlemarch’ maybe. I want to get closer. I want to inherit him.

We decide that this man is without doubt Henry Miller. Ethan Hawke has always had the opinion that Henry faked his own death in a bold bid to regain some sense of solitude. It was all to do with students hanging around his house, apparently. Ethan Hawke even suspects that Henry may be working at Denny’s as a cleaner, “He’s in-between shifts at the moment, buddy.” Ethan Hawke drinks a hell of a lot of coffee these days.

The old man slugs the last of his coffee, pays the bill (no tip much to Liz’s delight). He walks right past us. We catch a glimpse of the paperback. ‘How to Make A Million at The Track.’ Ethan Hawke becomes hysterical. “Jesus Christ! Henry’s playing the horses.”

Outside in the parking lot we see the old man again. He stands still. His gaze fixed on the traffic. He turns around, laughs at me, punches the air and walks briskly across the fields.

We continue our journey. Paula rolls a big one and there’s s a weary silence for at least twenty minutes, until Ethan Hawke tells us a joke about some whore house in Seattle.

FlashNano Day 6: Undressed

My ex-wife has been sitting naked on the bare stone floor, smoking my cigarettes, listening to the songs of Leonard Cohen. It’s the coolest thing that I have ever seen.

The last time we met was in December, a chance meeting at the bookshop in Bloomsbury. She was wearing high-topped boots, a tight sweater. Thumbing through Victorian poetry, she had told me that I was the devil. I’ve missed her only fleetingly since then. She cultivated her own life.

She told me, last Monday, on that first night of her return, that she’d been working at a university in Chicago, teaching ‘Historical Printing Techniques’. I knew this to be untrue because I’d seen her in disguise serving at the Starbucks in Leytonstone just a fortnight before. I didn’t mind her deceit greatly, just the muffins and coffee that she achingly placed out of reach. Maybe she did recognise me, if she did, some things never change.

Sophia left me because I got too big. Not in the career sense, I’ll always only be published in small presses (a pamphlet here, an overwritten review there), but around the waist. I did not suit her ‘new view’ any longer. She became decisively cruel, nicknamed me ‘the room darkener’. Those comments only outraged me to eat more.

She did not talk much in her first few days back, the odd mumble. She’d would sit on the sofa, eyes darting around the room, perhaps searching for a mark on the wall. In the other hours in between, when Sophia was not drinking wine in her nakedness, she busied herself by making soup for us both, using odd ingredients purchased from health shops in Kentish Town.

When she did start talking, she told me of her new plan. She explained that these fragrant potions would shed pounds off me and cleanse her entire, weary body. This was typically strange of her, a continuation of her neediness. I matured more in our interlude, I thought.

I became hungry, and I knew, that in the larder, rested an unopened jar of crunchy peanut butter. My heart beat faster when I closed my eyes and addressed it. In those ravenous moments, I could feel her eyes me, convinced that I was having a spiritual awakening.

Yesterday though, when I came home from the college, Sophia led me into a candlelit living room. She swapped Cohen for Dylan and was wearing one of my old shirts, glossy red lipstick. On the table stood a family bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, an ice bucket filled with strong beer.

She took me by the hand and waltzed with me to the song, ‘All I Really Want to Do’. It’s one of my favourite tirades; I used to send her the lyrics in desperate letters.

Sophia kissed me, encouraged me to her boned back. She told me that she was in love with me. That she has been a vile liar. Her ways had to stop.

We went to the bedroom, sweating pure salt and history. That song played within us.

At dawn, I threw the uneaten fried chicken away, along with the jar of peanut butter. I walked from Stoke Newington to London Bridge station in the slanted rain. I caught the silent train to Lewes in Sussex and visited her gravestone for the last time.

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FlashNano Day 5: On Leppings Lane

Sheffield. A once northern industrial city of South Yorkshire, which is in a small country called, England.

It was the Monday morning press conference after the Saturday afternoon catastrophe.

And he said,

“They were nothing but animals.”

He was a policeman in a buttoned up black uniform. A nice house in London (a large city in the south of England), a kitchen to swing ninety-six cats in.

On the beach at Crosby Sands, the fields of Stanley Park and from the Liver Birds, all of which are located within another northern English industrial city, called Liverpool.

There are still breathless screams of rage.

FlashNano Day 4: Empire

It was the London summer that stretched to the end of September. In our heat we watched the wretched flies dancing above us and listened to Dusty relentlessly singing from Memphis on your neighbours’ CD player.

Occasionally, when the breeze blew in our direction, there would be the sound of the crowd cheering from the Kennington Oval as a wicket was taken, or a six hit into the stands. Cricket, an English game gifted to an Empire. A game never taken back if recent results were anything to go by.

On the last afternoon we were naked on the bed. Breathless, weakened and fluid. We both wanted a cigarette, but movement ached us.

“It’s time you went soldier boy. Time for war.”
“I know. I’m frightened.”
“Don’t be. You’ll be back.”

Later, in the evening, the storm came, washing away the season. Radios were switched on, anxious arms were folded, hearts were broken.

And the flies had gone.