Friday, March 28, 2008

Six O'Lantern Policemen

Another piece 'Lexophony' (written by me in the sixties) should be read in advance of the piece below.


Published 'Purple Patch' 1995

'Tell a mixture of
Truth and lie...
...Untill no one
Not even you
Can tell one from the other."
[Lines 2305/6, 2309/10, The Egnisomicon.]

Six o'lantern policemen in church-dome hats clapped me into the pisky nick down by the goblin shore and gave me luncheon from a truncheon. I can't understand why I'm here but since I'm here for as long as I can foresee, I ought to be able to shape out the events leading up to my imprisonment in as chronological and meaningful a manner as I can muster. So, once upon a time, there was a dipstick, who for current purposes you can call me, a long streak of nothing, a pair of trouser-braces in the tin bath. I got going somehow, did most of the right things in most of the right eyes, passed a few notches through those trouser-braces ... and ended up discovering The Egnisomicon. The Egnisomicon, you won't have heard of, but you've guessed it, it is a book, a book of sorts, and, like most books, has words in it.

I got married, naturally, had a family, one boy, one girl, and we lived happily ever after. That's one side of the story which I would prefer to end there. But promises are promises. It was my son who thought I was old before my time - surely he saw that I was giving it all I could, in overdrive to earn an honest crust and support a rickety roof of rattle-slates. My God, my two women, since my daughter surely got to be one, they faced me out about it, said I had to keep hold of the 3 cherries or the 3 oranges or whatever, for they dreamed of a one time jackpot when they could nudge me out. Their heads waltzed in my dreams like bouncing balloons. I woke with sweat soaking the sheets. I also dreamed of the Earth itself being a monster, full of curdling cream, and bouncing like a head through someone else's dream, a backdrop to someone else's personal mythos. I dug the garden too much that next summer. I still don't know why and for what. Perhaps I wanted to see how far down it was before the cream started spirting out.

"Get that dirty thing out of the kitchen!" So I took it to the loo instead. I scraped out the tin bath me old mum and dad sat in the 50's. This is where it gets harder to be meaningful, since chronology has been thrown out with the baby. I could say that we had stockpiled loads of tins of Irish stew, marrowfat peas, Italian tomatoes, haricot beans, ring spaghetti &c and I emptied their contents over the ghosts of me old mum and dad who, for all I knew, still sat in the tin bath, scrubbing the day away. I could say that I got in, myself, and started wallowing about. But that does not explain The Egnisomicon, does it? Was that a tin bath into which had been thrown all the literary preservatives and colourings that could be turned out of the pantry of words? Or was it a more important item than that, telling you of moments in the past and future that are about to meet in time present?

Significance is only self-evident after it has ceased to be significant. That's why I'm here today staring from a grinny window, mouthing silently, over and over again, the same words. And the two women and the young man who used to be my family, what about them? They think they have forgotten me, as I have indeed nearly forgotten them. Little fear, I am about to write The Egnisomicon all over again, so that it can exist for the first time. And what indeed are those words I silently mouth time after time?

“You live a day a day to put life in
Suck suck sucking on your own bleeding virtue
You live a day a day to put Christ in
Beg beg begging that death cannot hurt you."

And, down by the goblin shore, the six policemen in church-dome hats fail to wonder what it all means - but neither do they seem to notice that I eat nothing and spend all my time in the pisky nick's bath, the trouser-braces tightening notch by notch...

"What is factual is not actual."
[Line 1190, The Egnisomicon]

Monday, March 10, 2008


There was no way I was going to kiss a self-confessed vampire, was there? She ran the Society of Vampires that I had decided to join - not because I believed in vampires, but because I appreciated the deliciously decadent literature surrounding the concept of the Undead: fiction all of it . . . except the story I have to tell.

She struck me as a gothic creature, combining . . . the fearful gullibility of a heroine who faced the mysteries of an ancient Appennine castle and its villainous owner with battlement brows . . . and the inscrutability of a dark-haired shadow-¬cosmeticked sharp-fingered black-garbed bangle-wristed pin-nosed creature that Satan might one day take as his chosen bride and sell as a hand maiden to God when finished with.

Her name did not suit either part of this forced synergy. Hilda. Yes, that was it. I’d nearly forgotten. Or something is trying to make me forget. Hilda. The one who ran the Society of Vampires. Not that any member believed in vampires. Except Hilda. And me, since.

Then being a rather sociable young man, one who considered himself in charge, even when he wasn’t, I soon worked my way up the hierarchy towards Hilda’s right hind - or should I say left hand? After a short stint as the Society Treasurer, I became editor of the house magazine and membership secretary. The latter position entailed vetting all applications for signs of crankiness - which was understandable, bearing in mind the interest group we attracted. In retrospect, I suppose it was Hilda alone who did not want people in the Society who truly believed in vampires nor, especially, those who had convinced themselves that the they were vampires. This was because she wanted to believe she was the only real vampire on Earth. She needed to be the king-pin: the Queen Bee.

As soon as I realised that she had taken a hankering towards me as a man, I began to back-pedal. It was all very well loving the rich seams of sado-masochism when simply in the form of words and literature - which mentality in many of the other members took the shape of comic strips or Dracula films - but, being face to face with it in Hilda, was tantamount to reaching beyond the well-head of the eye for the unknown regions of the soul.

Then, there was, of course, the occasion when everything came to a crunch. Some of us had been discussing various facets of vampires in Hilda’s bedsit - a dim, and dare I say tawdry, room in a building hidden behind other buildings off the Tottenham Court Road. A few resented how vampires were given a raw deal, whilst others were becoming concerned at the over-popularisation of vampires following the success of a film blockbuster. I cannot now recall who was present, other than myself and Hilda. That day, she had been more in the mode of Poppy Z. Brite/Anne Rice than that of Jane AustenlAnn Radcliffe or, perhaps, the other way round. Whatever the case, she was showing more of one side of her character than the other. She remained the ideal hostess, however, clearing away the scrunched-up silver linings of the wine-boxes we had consumed - before they began to litter the floor like dead duck-billed platypuses, or should that be platypi? Yet, as the evening wore on and the dark shapes of people peeled off one by one, she really got her teeth into one subject. Well, mention of Hilda’s teeth just had to arrive sooner or later, didn’t it? Which brings me back to the kiss I mentioned at the start. But I’m jumping ahead again, as if my thoughts are somehow readier for death than my body.

“I don’t know if we can explain why people like vampires,” I said, knowing this was non-sequitur, but little caring. I knew Hilda had been ranting on about Jung and the Collective Unconscious, but I couldn’t help thinking there was an uncollective unconscious of which even Jung was unaware. Very few people could tap into this more esotenc sump of the universal soul. If I was the only one who knew about it, I compared it to being on board a ship without any of the common passengers or Jungian crew knowing that I was on board. But I never said anything about it - either because I was scared of my pretentiousness being ridiculed or for fear of diluting the esoteric nature of the matter - or both.

“Donald” . . . there she said it, making me more vulnerable with the release of my name . . . “People love vampires because they fear death, and being a vampire is one way of escaping that big black hole.”

“Yes, but, down deep, they enjoy the horror - the thought of drinking blood with fangs et cetera et cetera.”

“The fact they enjoy horror” . . . she picked up the remains of what she thought was the last wine-box and wrung out a few dregs . . . “is like admitting that humanity is basically evil.”

“I’m not going into the old argument about all that!” I had already expounded at length on there being no possibility of the power of good without its balance. Perhaps that was why the others had sidled from the bedsit. Some on all fours.

It is at this point that I should make clear that Hilda had already, earlier in the day, made dubious overtures to me, even before she started emptying the wine-boxes. I suppose the old-fashioned term was “making a pass”. Needless to say, I did not reciprocate her advances in any shape or form, but, since I’ve had to clarify that point time and time again to the police, there is no harm in saying it here. So, when she suddenly lunged forward with her tongue too engorged for her mouth to contain it, I was ready to defend myself. That was the only reason I had the remaining unemptied bag of Burgundy concealed behind my back. It being still floppy and wobbly with wine, like a woman’s breast wrapped in wafer-thin aluminium, I managed to stuff it into her mouth, before she pinned my hands to the sofa with her fingernails. She was not to be foiled, however. I became hysterical with outrage at the unexpected sight of what I thought was a third arm coiling from behind her back - released, as became clear later, from a leather strapping that the flimsy frock concealed. This appendage was like a huge horny sting.

The rest is history. When the authorities undid her other thongs and bone-ribbed corsets, they discovered sagging there a sizeable sac of yellow slime. The doctors stated, in the cool light of reflection, that Hilda had been incontinent, a condition of which she was no doubt ashamed, being as young as she was. The death was deemed caused by reasons unknown. But I know different. She was what an esoteric like me would call an Earth Stowaway - not exactly a vampire, but the next best thing. But I didn’t have to enlighten the authorities - or should I say endarken? Giving me the benefit of the doubt (if anyone could possible wreak a benefit from such a negativity), they let me off with a caution. It is perhaps surprising that the Society has continued in being after Hilda’s so-called death. As I’m less gregarious now, members may be interested to know that I spend my time reading Jane Austen novels, desperately hoping that the words don’t turn nasty. Finally, I wish you well as the new editor of the Society magazine, hoping that you will find it possible to print this as a sort of epitaph - and warning.


Saturday, March 01, 2008


Published 'Queen of the Mists' 1994

Mygold loved me more than I could imagine.

I first met her on bait market day, when the streets were caught alive with sea smells. The man I knew in the area - by the name of Fisher Codge - happened to be hanging hooks along his washing line, as I approached from a southerly direction towards the north-facing port village.

‘Goodja day, Ben,’ he called, as he proceeded to lay his nets to dry over the outside coal bunker.

‘Same to you, Codge, I’m sure,’ I rejoined, leaning over his backyard fence, ready to while away the rest of the day in his company. Might as well--better than going up to the wharfside where the market loafers were bound to be surly, with there not being much trade about these days. The fishmongers did a fitful business from their varicose veined slabs of marble, but not enough to warrant hiring someone like me to clean off the scale-curds afterwards.

‘There is a glut of bait, Codge,’ I said glumly, motioning towards the knot of wriggling worm-sized maggots in the wicker basket I toted.

‘There be more bait than fish, ‘tis true, Ben, an’ there’ll come a day, I be bound, when people’ll ‘ave to turn to bait isself to feed their tummies. Then it’ll shoot up in price agin, don’ be affeared.’

I nodded, bemused at his logic.

Then, suddenly, quite unpremeditated, Mygold lurched down Fisher Codge’s backstep which, if I only had my eyes about me, I would have seen had lately been donkey-stoned a waxen red. Indeed, being donkey-stoned. Better than being tickled with a bunny cloth any day. But all my eyes were for this unexpected vision of Mygold, not for the results of Codge’s elbow grease.

‘Ben, I’ll ‘duce yer to me nees.’

Codge pointed with a fish hook he had been sharpening with a huge rutted file. Her name be Mygold.’ I was temporarily speechless, unusual for a bait-seller. I knew her name already, by reputation rather than physical presence; she had come to stay with her Uncle from a village further up the coast. ‘Mygold, this be Ben, an ol’ mate of mine.’ And he touched me lightly on the shoulder with the file, as if he were knighting me. He didn’t know I had wandered in the direction of his homestead, purely to see Mygold for my own eyes. And I had forgotten.

She made a song and dance of ignoring me. Having started to pick fish fingers from the large bowl she was lugging and, laying them out in the sunshine on the corrugated roof of the outside privy, she hummed a tunelessness that matched her demeanour. I almost felt the live weight of her breasts, loosely hanging as they were within the sheerness of her blouse. The expanse of buttocks thrust its visage towards me, the mouth opening and shutting like that of a monkfish, as she placed the bowl on the ground to allow her to reach further up the privy roof. When she finally turned towards me, I was faced with the most memorable features. Once seen, hopefully forgotten. The peepers, although set back into the jowls, were large filmy oyster beds. The smeller, long and slender, with mean pinprick nostrils. The eater, wide and wet, with a slippery customer lolling inside. The listeners so petite they were tantamount to gills. The hair scrawled back into wayward plaits of bottle-green tendrils.

This Mygold smiled. Codge winked. I did not know where to put myself.

She returned to the house, expecting me to follow, as it was plain that she desperately fancied me. I cringed at the trail of glisten she left behind in her wake.

‘Come in fer a while, Ben, why don’t yer’?’ Codge took my arm. I felt the piercing jab of a fish-hook in the back of my neck, as he reached round heartily to lead me up the garden path.

‘No, Codge, I got to get off to the wharfside, to sell my wigglies.’

‘Can’t yer spare ‘alf an ‘our fer a nice cuppa with yer ol’ mate. ‘These ‘ere fish fingers on the privy roof may be piping hot by then and you can par-take of a few afore yer go.’

I could not free myself, since the curved copper claw had by now reached the nodules within my back. I succumbed to the fate that often awaited honest baitmen such as me. To be hooked and lined for sinkering before tea.

I got my own back in a sense, for while I was otherwise engaged, all my wigglies escaped to the privy itself where, finding not nearly enough sustenance to core through in the shit-butt, they had managed to crawl up to the corrugated roof and proceeded to corrupt the fish fingers thereupon into little better than helpings of fried bubble-and-squeak.

How I knew this was happening outside, I put down to second sight, but the fact was not enough to compensate for the pain I endured inside. It was as if all my bones were party to the same unbearable toothache, while the diamond-sharp tip of Codge’s abandoned hook penetrated to the one massive abscess within the marrow of my spinal column.

But all that paled into insignificance when compared to what Mygold did to me. Not exactly bubble and squeak: more like blubber and screech.

They did, however, throw me back into the turbulent sea of life, only slightly worse for wear. I cannot honestly claim that it’s a particularly hard life us bait-men have to lead.

I did lose one of my wigglies that day, however, which, in better times, would have cost me a pretty penny. I expect it drowned in the butt and got mixed up with the rest of the stuff in there.