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The Honourable Member

The quick of the fall.
A punch to the heart
outside the hardware 
store is all it took.

I knew him as a schoolboy,
the way he rubbed dog shit
into a Chinese lad’s hair.
He had dreams of war.

He’s flat on his back now,
crying for his mother.
A woman from Napoli, long gone.
She was of good standing.

I watch from under a streetlight,
the knowledge that he’ll always be fine. 
I think I’ll do the shed in the spring.
There’s always an offer on Creosote. 

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.

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.

FlashNano Day 3: The Levee

On that sheer, blue, New Orleans morning. I imagined the black wind, the dirty, needle rain that tore this city to bedlam.

As my watch ticked ten o’clock, I wondered through the Lower Ninth Ward, searching for her stricken body under a sunken church.

But the sweet whisper in the trees and the soft, brown, Mississippi River rendered my memory of Katrina to a girl I had met on the internet, flirted with from my armchair.

You see, there are those who were living down here, still clinging to olive branches over there. Whilst a second line of ghosts, trombone, alone in her mud.

FlashNano Day 2: To the Moskva River

People won’t die, but it’s going to be bad. The press and Vlad will humiliate her and Donald.

It was only a little peepee though, just a dribble, but enough to shade the thighs of her white trousers’ lemon yellow. She liked Vladimir, the way he could crack a walnut in his hand, tell a joke. Sexy man. There would be no more flirting after this fiasco.

Melania punched numbers into her phone knowing it would be useless. This was Moscow, the Kremlin, nothing works here. Slumped on the toilet seat she giggled at her predicament. “I’ve come a long way in my life and this will pass.” Her eyes closed, her phone vibrated.

“Melania. It is Virginia. Are you overburdened with it all?”

“Virginia? Virginia who? How did you get my number?”

“Woolf. Judy Garland called and said you have had a discourse with your undergarments.”

“Judy! The bitch. Yes, I have. My life is over!”

“So, it may seem. But remember, this is only fleeting. There is a resolution to dominance. Do as I suggest if you please.”

“Ok.”

“It will disrupt only them. It will be futile in the long run of course, all things are. I want you to walk away from there. It will be cold outside but keep walking on until you come to an end. Do you understand me, Melainia?”

There were noises in the corridor outside. They were looking for her.

“Yes Virginia. They are nothing but men with walnuts.”

“Go now!”

FlashNano Day 1: And You Can Win a Goldfish

“And she never came down.”

It began well, the day, which surprised him. He expected the usual Saturday morning grief. The snipe of the ex-wife to his part time fatherhood. But she was smiling as she handed little Hannah over at the front door. Perhaps it was the sunshine or maybe the promise of six hours freedom. Either way, it was a rare relief to him, the non-existence of the weekly pain, blame and regret.

On the journey to the coast Hannah showed him things from her jacket pockets. A plastic spider, a chewed pencil and a love letter from a boy in her class who she thought was a right ‘minger’. They both laughed, sang along to ‘This is America’ by Childish Gambino. They were so happy, and both wished that it could be like this all the time.

They walked along the promenade holding hands talking about grandma and how she always made a fuss of the things that weren’t important: a scarf until April, a thank you phone call for birthday presents, clean underwear. The sun high, the sea green and the waves as “big as giraffes Daddy!”

They got their tokens and made plans. There was going to be candy floss, the dodgems, the Waltzer and if lucky a prize in the ‘And You Can Win a Goldfish’ arcade. But first, as ever. The Helter Skelter. Hannah made a fuss of getting the right coconut mat, she waved at him, went inside and climbed the stairs.