“You take and split the bean, and cut the wart so as to get some blood, and then you put the blood on one piece of the bean and take and dig a hole and bury it ’bout midnight at the crossroads in the dark of the moon, and then you burn up the rest of the bean. You see that piece that’s got the blood on it will keep drawing and drawing, trying to fetch the other piece to it, and so that helps the blood to draw the wart, and pretty soon off she comes.”
-Huck, in “Tom Sawyer”
I wasn’t sure what kind of bean to use:
my favourites are fava, but their season
seems to be more or less two weeks.
The baked kind are messy with the juice
and I couldn’t afford any mistakes.
A soybean isn’t even a bean; that’d be treason,
so I plumped for P. coccineus
(available from all fine legume purveyors).
I took and split the bean (or rather the pod),
felt the fine interior down, and a pang
of sympathy. Then I took a paring knife
and cut the wart so as to get some blood,
which was a new kind of grief
somewhat longer than a parasang.
I wonder if Huck Finn knew how long it was,
probably not having read Herodotus.
Finding a real crossroads is no mean feat
in suburban America. There are four-ways,
but they’re of two kinds: one, patrolled
by neighborhood-watchmen packing heat,
and two, cornered by buyers of gold,
payday-lending laundromats, and the haze
from the Dodge Rams and Chevy Silverados
of drag queens and dime bag desperadoes.
So I had to go a long way in a shitty car.
I dug a hole with my bare hands in the desert and
having reopened the wound and resmeared
the pod (and previously having found a bar
to drink in while I grew a Jesus beard)
let the bean fall from my trembling hand.
In the end it took no time at all to bury it,
but I felt, and still feel, like Judas Iscariot -
well, it’s America’s fault for having so many roads,
or it’s my fault for associating with toads.
Contigo duermo como los que no
tienen anclas, los que caen y
quieren solamente caer más.
Solo, yo caería con el deseo
de rescatar todo lo que yo vi,
desahuciado, casto, vil, obsceno.
Me despiertas por la noche; veo
brazos, espalda, cuello. Te despierto,
hago huellas, siempre estar detrás
en el salvaje, el descabellado huerto.
Otoño sigue, barriendo las hojas.
Cojo la pelota dondequiera la arrojas.
Bajo la lluvia, calma. Duermes como
barco sin ancla, tregua sin palomo.
I was 34 when I learnt to make scrambled eggs. I had always suspected there was something you could do with eggs that I was missing. I had always suspected a lot of things.
This week I’ve been increasingly repelled by the smell of my towel. I have a small yet super-absorbent rectangle of cloth which I keep at the office in a locker and call my towel. It’s probably about 1/10th the area of a regular bath towel, and I use it twice a day: when I arrive, sweaty or rained-on and begrimed, and at lunchtime after my shambolic jog and 2.3 seconds of planking. For my core. So compared to a regular bath towel, used once a day, each square whatever of my towel absorbs 20-times the dirt (or 100 times per week). I haven’t washed it in at least 10 weeks of use, so that makes my towel 1,000 times as filthy as a bath-towel after a single use. And yet I’ve only noticed the odour in the last couple of weeks.
I rather think we wash our towels too often.
It was all parties and partakings
when I bought the notebook.
I wanted a bigger one
but this was all the stationery shop had.
Waking, all was a blank. It had the makings
of a story. I took
the notebook from my pocket; the sun
glanced down and became sad.
I made my way to a railway station and a park and
I seemed to be missing something.
My leave expired in two weeks,
and I’d already thoroughly Larkinned
my hosts and all
I could say hello to. As I moped I wanted to sing
of the Trojans and the Greeks
and the Spartans,
and the tribes
who smeared their language across Europe,
making a faint imprint of their genes,
and expired. Now cartons
confront me at the supermarket, diatribes
bellow at me to buy cars, maple syrup,
I open the notebook in the middle
where the cushion for my pen is thickest.
Oh my lover,
picking up the kids from school,
hurriedly you fiddle
with the bike locks. Second-quickest!
Mentally I cover
my head with an arm. The whole
world wants me home and smelling of man:
come cats, play the whore,
come dog two houses away,
tear into my guts, if you can shear your rope!
When a life is over, deep-sixed, done,
kaput, rendered hungrily into gore,
even the hearts of heroes stay
a second, and the wolf-packs lope
less bloodthirstily (or do they?)
Even the poets know
an unattended rook
poised threateningly can raise a lather
of peasants and knight-errantry
and Nazis and their amanuenses and their beaux.
At last I write in the notebook:
I sit near Leicester Square and watch gather
a dire mob,
blazoned with savage punctuation marks
on their shoulders and
calf-muscles. One has a tattoo on her knee.
I was all ignorance and gob,
and query and contention and quarks…
I never planned
to buy it. I just did nothing. And it bought me.
The big thing at work right now is proving you’re less useless than someone else. 90% of us are useless, but this is about degrees. I’m unable now to say whether I liked or disliked a book. I can only say what mark out of ten I give it. You then need to compare that to my median mark and figure out for yourself whether I liked it whatever “liked” means. It’s the same at work (though not as serious where mere employment, and not literature, is concerned).
I can’t remember when I last posted. I’ve been to Bogotá since though and also to a town in the Western U.S. which I would rather not mention lest the NSA crawl through the keyhole and implant a probe into my spine. I like Colombia, and so does everyone else who goes there, and even some of those who live there. But what I want is to visit a place which the locals openly, universally denigrate. I’m British, I miss that. Bulgaria? Whitby?
While N and the kids are away, living it large in some fun-time ranch type of place, the Ibiza of the West more or less, I am left to muck out the cats, feed them, feed myself. It’s terrible. Just me in a big – well it seems big – house filled with bikes and cats. Well only two cats. I wouldn’t be surprised if my booze and books bills went up this week. B’s to balance out the C’s.
So consider yourselves updated.
Most people speak highly of you.
Hooray, they say, and they say wahoo.
They laud your amicable nature and your way
of saying exactly what they themselves would say.
But I don’t trust you because
your words come with a film of scuzz
like a stream with something foul beneath;
like someone smiling and exposing too many teeth.
The air tastes good, I swallow it with glee;
I eat my share of bugs, and they eat me.
My cat sits with his eye against the mesh, breathing
very lightly. I turn the page; a family on bikes
goes by. Jennifer next door is gardening, clipping
Russian sage – I note one of her dogs in repose -
there is no sound whatsoever and no smell. A well
of memories seems to open up in the lawn in front of me.
There’s the gorse bush I fell into, there the dog
I used to stroke while waiting for the bus,
and there I am, crabwise, with no extension, slowly
traversing the mesh, the intent eye and terrible scowl
of the cat fixed on me. Jennifer next door is clipping
Russian sage; there is no sound, there is no smell.
The world registers you not at all.
the world registers you not at all.
The world regards you less favourably
than a fly-trap a flea.
Going through life putting your case
is like being butter gone through putting your case
to the hot knife.