Thursday, November 24, 2011


To begin, the groundwork, a quiet scene:
James, seated stealthily in book-like clothes
and rumpled concentration, reading the
breadth of the shelf for his degree, his hand
splayed over a book as though to stop it
wriggling free of his grasp; or we can look
over at the classics wing where a mob
of Aristotelians earnestly
line the mezzanine - and nasal guesswork
might trace a damp sandal scent that mars the
pleasant paper-mould mood in the alcoves.

But these books are only assailable
for the seasons of study, beyond which
your turnstile-triggering library card dies.
From then on it’s all business, from results
day to the graduation photographs:
Jonothan, David, and Sarah scatter
like dice thrown onto a map - careering
the hopeful ascent into internships,
interviews, networking, and jobs websites,
then the bar work they promise to give up
every week, the tenuous nepotism,
the spin so self-ennobling no honest
CV could house it; Despite hindrances –
like the recession - the immutable
advance trudges steadily on into
daily office captivity, coffee
breath that might be congenital, double
chins obscuring the top buttons of shirts,
the lunch time pints, the tumescent beer guts
seen sagging over belt buckles, then the
plush restaurants followed by the theatre,
or pretending to enjoy the opera;
greying, guffawing fatsos with laphroaig
filled tumblers surrounding tables, grunting
dull-eyed self-congratulation. Now the
unfettered grimace parties, disgruntled
human swellings with burgundy eczema’d
skin swilling infinite gin at hollow-smile

But, focusing, these years
of faultless ironed shirts and thinning hair
shudder and divide to reveal two pub
bound suits - Harry, who they once called Hazza,
and Jeff, who noisily dredges up his
snot into his throat every few minutes -
as they loudly discuss the ample bum
and bust of their receptionist, neither
listening to the other - nor, really,
to themselves (undermining the function
of a conversation) - as a prelude
and practice for inebriation hour.
At a bleating from his pocket, Jeff stalls
to hock up sputum before answering.
Harry walks on thoughtlessly but, nearing
the chosen pub, has a thought nonetheless:
delving into his breast pocket he takes
out a small cylindrical pill vial and
automatically shakes it at his palm
unwittingly spilling a stray pellet
of fluoxetine onto the pavement.

Leaving him behind an instant later,
this pill will depart the spot plucked up snug
in the tread of a passing walker’s boot,
lodged in the aperture of the e in
berghaus, joining some gravel stowaways.
Before long the boots will be dipped in an
acrid puddle of splashed vinegar as
the wearer pauses at the threshold of
a chippy to consider the prices.
Reacting oddly with the vinegar,
the pill will begin to dissolve, losing
its shape, and disengage its rubber clamp
to froth and burgeon into a spectral,
lazily animated grey foam, like
a carbuncle on the concrete, causing
a very stoned metalworker to squint
down from his balcony through the dim street
lamplight, heart quickening, as he begins
to fear the proliferation and coup
of this giant-amoeba alien race,
one of whom would appear to be pulsing
insidiously right down there right now
oh god that cant be real its not real oh
god what is it it will take over and
melt us all in our beds it must be stopped.

But you can leave him there in a panic,
since he’s imaginary, while I stay,
as a fleshless voiceless voice on paper,
here between the page and itself, wrapped up
in its clean envelope of fictive thought,
lingering indefinitely to re-
read and consider how the initial
library hush could stray so far from itself,
dissolving the plot along with the pill…

So while I’m mired without past or future,
you have no choice but to move on ahead,
keeping with the forward motion of things,
where candles flicker (it’s compulsory,
even in still air) and the clock chisels
away - tck - at the hours you have left.

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