coffin club

That little cough

a small half cough

that men have

do

when they are doing things

around the house

the world

to let the family know

others

that they are still there

or could it be

to remind themselves

that they exist?

I find I have it too

now that I am older

when it began

I have no recall

or of its purpose

welcome to the

coffin club

A moment in parisienne time

time would be about 5

the light was low

I was nursing my café creme

watching the traffic slide by

the usual ballet of speeding cars

mopeds & pedestrians

the soundtrack being beeping

muffled curses & gallic waves

I was thinking of nothing

except how the evening would be

how to use what little money I had

to its best advantage

when over the road at the fromagerie

I saw a parisienne matron

late sixties

haute couture clothing

coiffeured to the top

shoes that cost more than I could earn

& a dog

a little white sniffy poodle thing

all nose in the air

& look at me attitude

madame stopped at the open counter

began to inspect the boxes of cheese

monsieur (the proprietor) rushed out

aah madame z, how are you

& how is little sniffy?

Madame inspected every box in the display

as Monsieur opened every box with a flourish

this is from x out in provence

it arrived today by special train

this from b in Lot et Garonne

is one week old & ready for your special palate

sniffy sat

looked up

& madame picked her up

continuing to inspect

these new cheeses with her fine nose

my coffee grew cold

I did not care

this was street art

pure entertainment

enthralled

as she smelt every fromage in the premises

after thirty minutes madame z finally spoke

thank you monsieur

but I will go to monsieur m today

I am sure he will have something for me

& with that

sailed fifty metres along the boulevard

& began the whole process again

 

Sticky, not in a good way

beware stirring the memory pot

for what is in there

may not always be what you think

dip in

if you must

but beware

it is sticky

& not always in a good way

those golden moments

put away for a good day

may

have become melded together

formed a half eaten mess

of gray

the faces of lovers

faded

& the pain that love made

thin strong steel is still there

as you struggle not to care

searching for morsels

from happier times

beware stirring the memory pot

it is sticky

& not always

In a good way

 

 

wanna buy a tarot?

Wanna buy a tarot?

she came at me waving cards

jaw jutting enough to cut diamonds

bottle bottom glasses

& the question as demand

took me a few seconds to recognise

had been 30 years since

we last locked eyes

she was angry then

mad even

furious

I’d not wanted to be in

part of her life

later

she’d sent a postcard

to say

your son was stillborn today

at 5a.m.

was christened

as Christie

& there was no knowing

the truth of that

except in the pain of the sender

wanna buy a tarot?

she asked again

I shook my head no

in case she recognised my voice

& left quietly

backing away

watching the hands

in case they held more cruelty

dust whorled room

Smelling the damp

in the flaking brick

the brown stains dried

where the rains penetrated the roof

now peeling the faded wallpaper

there on the worn stairs

where another breathed their last

rugs with holes worn by dragging feet

deadened by pain that living brings

hearing only silence

in a dust whorled room

this is what poverty brings

the living without

these I witnessed

how my friends lived

as a child

their parents not wanting me there

not through badness

but not wising to expose

their shame

dozing

I was tired

is my excuse

needed five minutes

after battling traffic

saw a space on the side of the road

between parked camper vans

I began to pull the sunscreen down

needing shade

& heard a beeping

a woman in a camper in front

waving a finger

saying no no no

I lay back tried to sleep

& about 2 minutes in

the penny dropped

I lay a little longer

all thoughts of sleep gone

turned the engine on

& drove

ran really

away

noticing now

that all the parked campers

had ladies in them

I found another place to doze

 

Begles, Bordeaux

Colleen

Colleen lived with an older man in some way I was never able to quite fashion. We called her Hazel because she had white blonde hair like hazel o’ Connor in that film where it all ends badly, and that was enough for us.

Hazel had ambitions of being a tattooist; she was saving up for the buzzing machine, though had already amassed scores of garish inks and ‘flash’. Flash being the name for the patterns, pictures and cartoons that skin artists work from. I had no interest in any of this; my interest in Hazel was purely sexual, combined with a healthy respect in her ability to buy beer for me.

I was riding at this time. Having a tatty second hand motorcycle and spares shop allowed me to ride most machines passing through our hands, if not, with friends I would put bikes together to ride then sell on. Oil and grease at this time were permanent features of my life. Somehow this didn’t put Hazel or others like her who pass now in memory, off.

We drank like tomorrow would be spent in deserts. The landlord loved us, he had a drinking problem: so much to drink and so many more bills to pay. Friday nights all beers came from the one tap, whatever he had managed to buy from other pubs would flood through it. To say no was to end the drinking session, the fun was over. The curtains would be drawn to keep out light, police and others who may not understand. Dave the landlord pour coins into the jukebox and imperiously point at different sections of the crowd, commanding them to sing, if he met with refusal then he would fill no more greasy pots for them. To see shaven haired thugs singing  “the floral dance” is a sight lost to the world. As bikers, our tune would be the ‘birdie dance’ or ‘burning Ring of Fire’ accompaniment by paper and comb could earn a free beer. Dave was a rare vision in the world of landlords who would become scared by my leathers and long hair and eject me on sight.

It was here that I saw an Irish legend in action. I’d heard the stories of Irish boys wanting to fight to make a good night ‘the crack.’ How fights could break out for no reason excepting that of being amongst friends. How bottles and fists were fair, how best to not get involved but to just enjoy the spectacle. Dave was serving in his pyjamas, slippers and gown when it happened. Mick (of course) set down his beer glass. He placed it upside down in the middle of the bar and then stepped back. He looked neither left nor right but straight-ahead. To either side of him space appeared. Down at the other end of the bar I felt the silence, though the jukebox continued screaming some Clapton song. Then another paddy whose name I never knew set his glass upside down and stepped back from the bar.

They looked at each other.

Dave yanked the plug from Clapton mid slowhand. I felt fear and excitement mixed with an awe of expectation of what was to follow. Here I was in the middle of legend.

They nodded in warrior respect and went outside.

Mick took a beating, the other paddy lifting him off his feet with each punch, kicking him as he fell, then lifting him to beat him again. No malice, no apparent satisfaction, no smiles, just a good job being done. Then he turned his back as if to leave, he picked up his coat, was putting it on with the slow grace of a champion when Mick bottled him. His eyes crossed, he fell and Mick methodically put boots to him. This was no matador at the ‘moment of truth.’ No coup de grace, nothing but a good hard kicking. Then Mick picked him up, set him to his feet, asked in his gentle soft southern way whether they should continue. ‘Paddy shook his head and they sloped into each other back into the bar. They spent all other drinking session together; the fight never mentioned again, best friends together against the world.

There was no rhyme or reason for this I could find, nor could others, sufficient to be there when drinking history was made was enough.

Hazel said she was frightened yet needed to change her knickers immediately. Later when the car park was darker she took me outside, back against the wall, legs wide and wanting. Voice trembling in my ear to do it, just do it, do it now! She came as I slid into her, wet and gushing, me thinking she was wetting herself, holding onto me, nails digging into my arms, shoulders, neck. Talking low and dirty about what she wanted me to do to her. About wanting to be bound by rope, left in the open for others to see her legs wide and wanting. Of spankings she needed, of horsewhips and chains.

I came, bent back and grunting, head empty of anything but this excited newer Hazel. Before our sex had been adequate: we’d drink some beers, she’d open her legs, I’d fuck her, she’d suck my cock when asked and that was pretty much about it.

Sex then was not a problem, I was getting it everywhere, girls would come into the shop, I’d meet them in pubs, everywhere. I was a classic piece of rough. I’d take them into the back of the shop, smoke a little grass, then bend them over whatever bike was there. ‘Grip the bars’ became the phrase-“he’s showing some girl how to grip the handlebars” I’d even fuck some guys’ women out back as they were buying in front. Those girls were dirty and up for it, turning up in short leather and stockings or lace tops, no bra-no knickers.

But this wasn’t all one way. Sometimes I would misread situations, wanting to make dates just to watch them fade. Some of them are dead now, all I can hold of them is their knees up and hands pulling me in. Silk black knickers wet with want and nothing. There were myths of pregnancy, a baby that came through the door held by a mother mouthing my name and hand held out in need for things I didn’t know how to give. She disappeared, as did the others.

Hazel became a problem, from cool girl who would fuck only when asked she became a limpet, holding, sucking at any given moment. The novelty for me wore off pretty quickly; I helped her buy the tattoo machine, tried setting her up. She wanted to fuck more. Then she got a night out and I took her home to my cold flat. The boys bought beer as she set up her machine. I’d warned my friends to stay away from her ‘art’ I’d seen her shaky hands too close…

Later we started to fuck as others watched the t.v. She was bleeding and as I pulled her tampon to put it on the floor Spud saw this and wanted to eat. The light was shadowy from the t.v. And one bulb in the corner as he began to chew. Hazel began retching under the sheets, others smiling, waiting for him to spew. From somewhere else than there I watched, observed, looking but not taking in. I knew he was swallowing blood and cotton wool, enjoying the grossness of his own behaviour but thinking if he’d wanted her that much, why hadn’t he just fucking asked?

The floor show ended, for once Hazel didn’t want sex. In the cold light of morning I left her in the flat to go open the shop. Her face pale and worried as she lay in bed, with spud and others still asleep on the floor. That night she told me of money made plying ink and art onto my neighbours skin and all I could do was think of taking her home. My neighbour seemed pleased by some Burns poem scribed into his ginger Gaelic skin. He would return a week later feeling duped as the ink faded by each shower but by then it was over after the old man she lived with started to complain about me turning up. We had a goodbye shag, she holding onto a tree, hugging it as she pushed onto my cock, face over her shoulder concentrated as she wanted me to come and go. Wanting me to talk dirty of how good her pussy was, how wonderful her blowjobs, the handcuffs we never bought or whips uncracked. I did it, this meant nothing to me with Hazel, already I was thinking of another who would only partly fill the void.