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May 01, 2010
Lamppost Poem #23
I became a tree hugger to meet other tree huggers, but it turned out they only wanted to meet trees.
At our first meeting, I wrote my name with a wooden pencil, and I was accused of eating the flesh of a tree. I denied this, but realised I was chewing the end of the pencil, so I rectified the wooden and sticky situation by living with trees for a week, to learn about them, to be closer to them, to one day call them something other than ‘them’.
This tree is not a calculated thud on the ground. Phone calls are made with osmosis, but they never speak; only mumble. A sound is made when a lamppost collapses, but can it be heard if no one is around? Witnesses cannot see without a lamppost light, and are never heard from again, which isn’t too much of a shame considering their presence ruins the main condition of the question.
In forests, Lysander and Hermia throw away the candles and dine by lamppost light. He is not an expert in global warming, but in an alternate reality, he is. Paris in the Autumn is indifferent when a tree loses its leaves. I wear green, but feel blue. The polar caps melt, and somewhere, a tree laughs because the tree always gets the last laugh, as long as it isn’t Autumn.
I join a group of lamppost huggers to meet lampposts, but the other lamppost huggers are more interested in people.
I meet someone called Chris, and he says: “I don’t really like lampposts. I only joined to meet other lamppost huggers. I guess that I’m a people person.” I look at him with disgust, and notice that he wears gloves whenever he touches a lamppost, which he only ever does if Cynthia is watching. It turns out his real name is Juke or Child or something like that, but it doesn’t matter. In my head, I am still anti-Chris. I am the anti-Chris.
In a thunderstorm, don’t stand under a tall true. It’s funny because it’s tree.
I stand in Raferton, a city where artworks speaks for itself, but only in the language of graffiti. The grass is grey and cemented, and leads to libraries and pet shops that only sell fireworks. The city has two fingers down its throat, but licensed a professional artist to paint flowers on brick corners; the flowers are painted dead with the artist’s signature above them. Love letters and birthday cards are undelivered, but never unwritten. Traffic lights have staring contests with drunk strangers who wonder where their day has gone, wondering if it will ever return to give them a second chance to live their day and do nothing again. The city is an insomniac, always awake when the night breaks, and it aches and aches in the city, the sick Dalmatian, the tree hugger who hugs a lamppost, the last child to find its happy meal, and I love it, I love the lampposts, I love the graffiti, I love the city, I love the spindles of chlorophyll and incandescent light-emitting diodes.
December 22, 2009
I misread the invitation for the murder mystery party
and turn up with some cyanide and a bottle of wine.
Hellos are exchanged like currency, but I only have Euros.
I find a lonely man in the basement, painted in a black suit
from the 1920’s: he finds himself acquainted.
I return to the party and jokingly ask for a spade,
almost giving the game away. I make a new friend:
his name is Henry, and he can play the bassoon.
I am about to chime in with an anecdote about visiting
the park and feeding stale bread to plastic animals,
and then a scream, her voice,
rotund like an atom split deathly,
and we hear the news, told through choked tears:
the butler is dead, and the plot, it thickens;
I bite the bullets and they taste like chickens.
“Could it be part of the script?” at least two people ask.
“No,” says a pale woman, “because I was meant to die.”
“You’re not meant to tell anyone,” says her husband.
Whilst straightening my ruffled collar, I suggest
it was natural causes, but nobody listens because
‘MURDER’ is written in red on the floor,
with a tube of strawberry icing in the butler’s cold hand;
the host cleans it before it stains the carpet.
Just as the invitation promised, we all play detective
now there is an excuse to judge party guests;
cigars are smoked without a puff of irony.
The police arrive in jeans and Hawaiian shirts;
I assume it is Casual Friday. They scribble notes
onto napkins, and help themselves to h’ordeuvres.
The host decides it is inappropriate to serve the canopes,
so eats them alone in the kitchen.
The detective turns up late and is neither Belgian
nor a group of five children with a dog.
He sees the fear in my eyes.
I panic and hide in a different room
and dive into party conversation
where we say words and nod
like reluctant metronomes
and if I keep talking to people
then I won’t be questioned
so I ask a lonely woman:
What do you do? And who are you? Is that your real name? Even the hair? Have you always been a vegetarian? Or ever at all? Are birthday cards just preaching to the converted? Is pre-marital hugging still acceptable in public? Did Jesus have a Godfather? I like your necklace. I really like your neck. Do you think HSBC should update their name and call themselves HSAD? I can’t swim, but I once jumped into a swimming pool which replaced water with joy and found myself temporarily in Cynthia’s world, until I realised I was watching it on 4OD. Samson needed a haircut, so I cut off his head. He didn’t see that one coming. I would never do that to you because I like your neck too much. I had a dream about a lion. Is the lion my friend? Do you think the thesaurus is the greatest love story ever written? It has more ways of describing love than any other book I know.
A: How would you describe yourself in one word?
A: In three words?
B: So very cold. Did you like that Sheela na Gig carving I gave you?
A: I liked it very much.
B: I’m glad you liked it very much.
A: I was being sarcastic. It’s disgusting.
B: So was I. I’m distinctly not glad you like it.
A: Does your foot still hurt?
B: After the accident?
A: No, I meant after the birth.
B: So you meant after the accident?
A: Don’t mock me.
B: I’m not mocking you. I’m just mocking your phobia of things that touch water by three sides.
A: You do not scare me.
B: I am not a peninsula, so I am not surprised.
A: I also have a great pain in my foot. In future, I must be more careful with the umbrella.
B: Where is it?
A: Below the ankle.
B: Even when it rains?
A: I was talking about my foot, not my umbrella.
B: So was I.
A: It’s so painful, I will have my funeral next week.
B: I will bring balloons.
B: All funerals have balloons. Black ones, obviously.
A: For every balloon you provide, I’ll hand out a needle to a mourner to pop it.
B: Ah, but I’ll hide something inappropriate inside the balloon that’ll only be released if popped.
A: They can throw it away.
B: Not if it’s carbon monoxide.
A: Carbon monoxide is solid in-between -205 °C and -192 °C. Then it can be thrown away.
B: Won’t that be cold?
A: We’ll just have to wear warm coats.
B: And a scarf.
C: I’m not a part of this conversation.
A: Last night, I had a dream where I drowned in pools of my own blood. I don’t know what it means; I just know that it’s not good.
B: What it is a coat?
B: If you include Antarctica, there are only six consonants. Oh, not consonants, I meant compliments.
A: I’ve heard it lovely there.
B: I’ve heard it’s lonely there.
A: Graveyards aren’t lonely. It’s a party with dead people who can’t leave.
B: Several years from now, there’ll be so many deaths that the whole planet will be a massive cemetery to fit everyone. I read it in a newspaper.
A: Newspapers are false. I read that a scientist chemistrated that the best part of a roller coaster is going down at a terrifying speed because everyone subconsciously wants to die.
B: But that sounds true.
A: Then why is everyone so relieved at the end of the journey?
B: Because the drive home from the amusement park is the Afterlife, and the traffic jam is Limbo.
A: No, because I made it all up. Even about funerals having balloons.
B: But I’m the one who said that.
A: Sorry, I confused our two characters.
B: I hurt it running for the bus.
A: There is nothing more enjoyable than watching someone run for the bus.
B: There is something more enjoyable than watching someone run for mayor.
A: The pen is mightier than the words.
B: I did, but with a few extra syllables.
Hey Dad, what else do you call someone who uses a lawnmower? When your friends come ask who I am, it isn’t funny when you say that I am just the free-loading gardener who can’t do anything except cut the grass inadequately. It also isn’t funny when you say, “Well done, son,” with the irony effervescent in its brutally crushing flow because my lifetime achievements fit inside a crouton. Hey Dad, when I was asleep on the sofa when you came home from work, and you called me a lazy slacker, did you know that my eyes weren’t closed? I was just watching something invisible. I was watching the photo on the mantelpiece of the three of us: your hair cut like lemons, Mum wearing that perfume she left behind, cradling me in her arms, and I’m wearing my favourite dragon t-shirt. Hey Dad, I wish you would remember when I was twelve, and I played the thief in the school play and stole the show. You were so proud you let me sit in the front seat of the car, but now I have to use a sleeping bag on the basement floor instead of the sofa where we used to sit watching football together, drinking beer, making small talk about your job and the weather. Hey Dad, I may have been alone in the house all day, but I wasn’t, like you so elegantly phrased it: ‘the most fucking useless gardener since Alan and Eve’. That’s not true, not quite. It’s not even correct, so at least get your insults right. I mowed the lawn again before playing card games against myself, even appointing myself with names like Luke, Noah, Moses, Mary Magdalene to pretend the Bible’s written about me, to mend my shattered confidence. Hey Dad, shall I tell you what I remember? I remember when I was three, and you told me dragons didn’t exist. I remember you telling me I was an accident in front of your friends, in front of my first girlfriend, in front of the teachers at parents’ evening (the only one which you actually went). I remember being thirteen and writing the script for a zombie film told from the zombies’ perspective. I called it “Night of the Sparkling Apple Jazz”. You called it a waste of time, son. I remember yesterday when you said my potential is like The Smiths reforming – it’s never going to happen, son. Hey Dad, I’m not going to apologise for ruining your jumper by turning it into a peninsula; cutting the sleeves made me feel like I was a marathon runner ripping the finishing line. And I’m definitely not going to apologise on your behalf, because she’s left and never coming back, because that’s what happens when you spend a lifetime trying to make being selfish an endearing characteristic, so we might as well cancel the newspaper subscription, but if you do this week’s crossword, the final word is L-A-W-N-M-O-W-E-R-E-R; it is a real word, so if you’re going to insult me every day, at least use the right terminology even though it is arguably not true, like how I still call you Dad. I’m sorry, Dad.