BEASTIARY FOR THE SEVEN DAYS
Content, like a carnival, Monday stretches its long hair taut over its giant hollow eyes and plucks a rudimentary tune. The scientists are flicking salt at your boyfriend. They do not believe in the efficacy of occult practices, but maybe that’s because they name every spark that flies from the lathe.
Bored, like a parade, Tuesday lies on the tracks, swallowing the trains as they approach its mouth and excreting them safely back onto the track moments later. The doctors are traumatised by what they have seen in the Penny Dreadful. They do not believe in the tyranny of photography, but only because they draw no distinction between that and the retina.
Exultant, like a procession, Wednesday dances on a pile of five-hundred fat dead bodies dressed in business suits; it is waving a sign which reads ‘I AM THE COOLEST THING EVER!’ The anthropologists are masturbating in the gazebo. They do not believe in despotic authoritarianism, but they are wrong to doubt our leaders who are doing the best they can in the circumstances and who need our support, not our disapprobation.
Frightened, like a pageant, Thursday arranges antique dolls on the prow of a ship. The builders are catching tainted pilchards just off the coast of Morecambe. They do not believe in divination by migratory geese, but one of them claims to have had lunch with Kahil Gibrain.
Claustrophobic, like a demonstration, Friday heats a tin of condensed milk over a camping stove and licks its lips. The dermatologists are reading Wittgenstein by the disused swimming pool. They do not believe in dance as political expression, but perhaps that’s because we have to eat so much all the time that it’s difficult to think about anything else.
Lonely, like a march, Saturday chews on a rolling pin. The writers are smashing one another over the head with marble clubs. They do not believe in contacting the dead, but maybe that’s because most of them are dead.
Grateful, like a rally, Sunday peers at tiny green lights through the smoke in the clearing. The soldiers weep in the theatre courtyard. They do not believe in the healing properties of laughter, but then they have only ever laughed at their genitalia projected onto the sides of cathedrals.
I remember the look on your face when I said,
‘All is born out of boredom: Mud is boredom.’
And how I was sent in search of my room –
I found it under the reflection of my face.
Our community was divided into cooperative factions;
Friendly but guarded, like a dolphin’s smile.
If you were an animist, you could marry a plinth.
The morning our flag was redesigned to incorporate
More flashing lights, I watched fireworks
Exploding against a blue sky.
I had just learned how to say the word, ‘Koan’.
The air was thick with hatred. I barricaded
The doors. My sister picked up the golden banjo;
I told her to pick up something less fragile.
While we argued over suitable weapons
The door was broken down and our mother screamed.
Oversized men tore through the house,
Chucking father into the samovar.
They were dressed in sharp things;
It was an advertisement, but not for sharp things.
It was for some kind of waffle-shaped cake.
It is a fact of life in every neighbourhood:
You can’t play a piano under water, but
You can ride the concept of a horse forever.
When I rounded the corner a pile of waiting rooms
Lay in ambush, chanting ‘Spare us the homily.’
The boy with glue on his jumper made bats
By paperclipping moths to the backs of mice.
He left them at the foot of my bed, offerings,
Like he was my cat. I did my best to detach him,
But we remained friends until he joined the army –
Or what he thought was the army;
It was actually just one of many armies.
A local clown ran a seminary for balancing acts:
‘To do something hilariously wrong
You must first learn to do it better than an expert.
A clown requires a momentary tableau of lyrical beauty
Before plates, chairs and animals come crashing down.’
My father was mortified when I questioned his police work.
Through rigorous training, the child learns
To appear still whilst expending furious effort.
Several things make even less sense in retrospect:
Did radio presenters really interrupt their shows to talk to me?
Did the sun actually set three times that night at the beach?
How could the mortician tell me everything would be alright?
What was with the man who painted imaginary topless women and displayed them
outside his house to cause car accidents?
The gold aeroplane I saw circling our house?
Why was it only the children in duffle coats who died?
The Walled Garden
When they insist that you select the most expensive dish on the menu – although this means they themselves will go hungry and watch you eating with barely concealed longing – and when they subsequently punish you by not buying a balloon for their son and he cries because he wanted a balloon to the extent that life without a balloon is worse than a burst balloon – emptier and more shocking – and when they later mention your meal to the beautiful girl with the shawl and she looks at you as one might study an exhibit at a war museum – and when, as a result, even the heretofore overfamiliar Uncle won’t make eye-contact with you anymore and you feel like a camera, dropped on its side and left running – and when refusing the only bed in the house would appear extraordinarily rude and you are kept awake at night by the disgruntled sighs rising from the dirt floor – and when you accidentally break a plate at the sink and they say it is no matter (but later you see him with his arms around her and she is sobbing); and when you ask for a short, instructive phrase to be repeated for the fifth time and it is still unintelligible to you so you give a half-smile and nod and they throw up their arms in dismay – and when the next morning you cram your shirts into your suitcase, adjust your hair in the rear-view mirror stuck to the wall and thank them and apologise for the imposition and they take you by the face and kiss your forehead, twice, tears in their eyes, you’d better be pretty damn gracious about it.
The Fat, Stupid Bear
Not everything you say has to be a joke – in fact you will grow sick on stale endorphins – and many is the day I’ve skulked about on a train like a fat, stupid bear, humming The Nutcracker Suite from start to finish. I still reach my destination, but that is thanks to the train and not to me – whom is stupid.
The Conceited Girl
In Leicester Square, it’s great to hear a passing girl growl at you and say Oh! there are too many PEOPLE! and to say, ‘Pretty as you are, honey, you’re people, too; we’re all people – and we stink!’ But then you will be caught in a glass cell of pride and you will congratulate yourself for many days afterwards and maybe write a poem about it, in which the girl is made to look conceited and self-regarding and will be the subject of much derision from you and your readers, assuming you have any. What a stuck-up cow! Thinks she’s not people! And truly it will be you who needs reminding that you’re people too; more honest to be the spoilt brat, growling and saying there are too many people. Of course, I’m not pointing this out to you for your own development, either. Indeed, the subtext to this poem amounts to a backing singer crooning, ‘I’m better than you.’ So now I’m in a glass cell of my own and, though it pains me, I’m a little proud of myself for admitting that to you.
I am better than you because you are not a writer, let alone the defining writer of your generation. I bet you wouldn’t even know where to begin with that tall, sun-dappled kid, trying to keep the clip-board on his handlebars – or the way the boy eating a pie outside the newsagents scowls at the horizon as if waiting for that which is best left unsaid. Or the girl in the flat upstairs who was obviously in because you heard her crashing around with the vacuum, but when someone knocked at the door she pretended not to be there and you could sense her trying to stand perfectly still like a spinning plate, holding her breath. You felt not unlike a spider. Actually it would be best not to mention them at all. Apathy is a constant struggle.
The Loose Brain
This isn’t really coming off the way I’d hoped. I set out with love. Through the open window I can hear the anchorman say “The luckiest man in the world was almost killed yesterday when a plane hit his caboose. Jamie Patterson of Sydney would have choked on the pen he was chewing, were it not for the worry ball rolling off the shelf and striking him on the back at precisely the right time and exactly the right place to dislodge it.” You gotta wonder though, how lucky is he, really?
When you are sad and put-upon you will be enchanted by cold chicken and a glass of beer in the garden. And the jokes will still be awful, but you won’t mind so much and nobody will worry about the sneer that keeps creeping across your face. You create such beautiful places. Everyone creates entirely different places and the ones you create are beautiful, and I will always say, ‘I love you,’ too often. But that’s okay, right?
Luke Kennard holds an Eric Gregory award (2005) from the Society of Authors and a Hit and Myth award (2006) for inconsistent and inaccurate use of Classical references. His theatre company, Pegabovine, are performing in the Pleasance Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival this year. Their show is called The Slush Pile. Luke Kennard’s first collection, The Solex Brothers, is available from Stride Books.