Monday, 9 May 2011

Workers of the World... Fragment...

The harsh alarm beep

destroys dreams,

we force eyes open

splitting crust at the seams.

Rusty, we stand – shaken, brave,

weak, scared,

our subconscious scratching at the stitches

so carefully woven

over a thousand past lifetimes.

We bury pull sickie reflexes

and sprint headlong into

the ubiquitous every day raid,

where time thieves grab

every second they can.

Where we scurry escape to

the solace of toilet cubicles

to lay cables

that electrify fantasies of

wielding cricket bats

contacting brutal with windows,

computer screens

and co-worker's faces,

and sparing, saving the angel colleague

we pierced so many

silent fluttering glances with

and driving off into our

gloriously unknowable futures,

like a Bruce Springsteen song

animated with

pulsing flesh and dignity.

But the flush destroys these meanderings,

and heads hung low in dread

we step into the bullet-riddled warzone

grumbling in marooned harmony:

I'm only working here

because I need the fucking money”

Let's close our eyes.

We're fifteen.

Precocious sponges absorbing

all immediacy,

our backbones priming

for invisible horizons,

sizing up our forthcoming days

forcing the future to adapt to our prophecies.

But somewhere in the shifting sands

our spines dissolved,

our central security systems collapsed

and the tentacles took over,

camouflaged by aspirational posterlife dreams,

bringing bacon back,

smart/cas dress codes,

20% staff discounts

and pat mottos such as:

well, I don't take my work home with me” .

The tentacles reached into our craniums

and began to suck out extraneous hopes,

dulling our irises with subjugation

until nothing but repressed sweaty tears

and a fear of rent arrears remained.

Let's open our eyes.

We're in, as Wayne Campbell would say, 'the now'.

We pointlessly flush the toilet,

and lurch back to the shop floor

like zombies on death row.

Our area manager

(a grotesquely fat, burnt marshmallow

of a man named Ivor Pie)

caresses and tickles the oily, purple tentacles

and hisses sweet nothings

into the air-holes.

The tentacles grin, hardening and pulsating,

and suck fierce at our brains in gratitude.

Ivor rubs a greasy, gleeful hand

over his folded and refolded stomach

and shoots us eyes full of silent weapons.

We robotically take off our T-shirts

and bend over,

allowing Ivor to snort a huge road

of three parts baking soda

one part Peruvian cocaine

off our blistered, breaking backs.

The powder fireworks Ivor's temper,

and he ferociously kicks us into a pile of blank anonymous products.


he screams.




Ivor makes his wobby exit.

We stand, shaken, brave

weak, scared

and face the coagulating, whinging hoards of public,

who moan about antiquated midcore pornography

and demand refunds on lottery tickets

because they didn't win.

The whinges fuse with the dull pounding

in the back of our brains

which punch out

a shriek of useless marooned harmony:

I'm only working here

because I need the fucking money”.

Ivor Pie now reeks of pastry

and the death of souls

as he disappears amongst

the Friday night faceless cock rummaging

masses who infest this dingy hovel.

All the men become a creepy, bulging mass

of silent leering and crass cheering

as our tits and arse dance

dispassionately on the stage,

ageless stiletto gyrations on automatic

stiffening twitching pricks.

Banknotes float on the smoke

of rusted power-driven lust

and become fuse perfectly with our G-strings.

The music (some shitty house number)

numbs almost all other sound

to us: the dancers of the neon skin rhythms.

Sometimes we enjoy our job,

sometimes we don't,

and it's unfortunate that Stan,

an estate agent from Hackney,

head thick with cheap champagne

and three parts baking soda,

makes a grope for us

at a moment when, it must be said,

we're not enjoying our job.

As we feels his rankling fingers grasp our ankles

we turn and fix him.

He freeze frames under our glare,

his face everything we fear and hate:

another cunt filled with venal venom

and a twisted sense of entitlement

too much money

and too little respect

pumping through his veins.

Every rubbed raw memory

rushes up inside us

like we've just double dropped

and our senses pop,



ripping into raging, burning fragments

and everything blanks

and suddenly we're rebel Atlas'

kicking away foundations of heaven and Earth

and letting them crumble into space

and our full forced arm shoots out

and drives a stilhetto heels

deep into his eyeball,

harder and thirstier with every shove,

muscle gives way to more muscle

as his addled brain is punctured

and Stan's soundtrack

to the final shutdown

is our gored screaming

reverberating in marooned harmony:

I'm only working here

because I need the fucking money”.

It's why we're drinking away sores

and rioting in hammered high street small scale wars,

all for the elemental relief of the beer, the sweat

and sticky floor,

soaking our psychosis,

then wringing it dry

to destroy

just for a moment -

the flickers of the tie noose

and gallows suit...

The harsh alarm beep

destroys our dreams,

we force our eyes open

splitting crust at the seams.

Rusty we stand – shaken, brave,

weak, scared,

and stagger down to

the jam-packed underground

which swells with sweaty, rage-prickled skin

and bulges with comedown weekend sins.

We're a thousand Orpheuses

hopelessly marching into the underworld

to reclaim damned damsels.

We hold up candles,

we squint eyes,

but find no psychopomps,

just the diminuendo throb

of our former consciousness

as we catch flickering

scrunched up faces against plastic windows

rattle past, and darkly vanish.

We're banished to drag out battle-worn shields

to block out the pulsing pain that reels behind

and belies blank, bloodshot, coffee-slapped eyes.

Eyes that, occasionally,

glance up to try and find a sky

and silently scream

in marooned harmony:

I'm only working here

because I need the fucking money”.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Okay, I'd like to make a bit of a public apology.

Last night, I performed at Word of Mouth at Norwich Arts Centre, supporting the excellent Pete the Temp with the nicely surreal John Simpson Wedge and the gently confident compere Dan Gregory. I think everyone had a grand old time, and Amy ran a fantastic gig all round. Lovely stuff!

As I mentioned during my performance, it was slightly odd for me as I hadn't been back in Norwich for a few years, not since July 2004. And it was fantastic to be welcomed by one of my best friends, Jon, who I met at my first year of uni and we've remained close ever since.

Problems arose, however, at the open mic after the NAC gig. By that time I had had a few drinks, and was with Jon in the pub with a couple of his friends. We were drinking and chatting during the performances at the open mic, and I had put my name down for it. I decided to do one of the poems I had already performed (which, due to the alcohol, was a weaker performance and I shouldn't have done it), and three haikus I just like messing around with.

Again, due to the booze, I was in my own world, and talking to an old friend who I hadn't seen in months. I was then jolted out of my revelry by one of the poets onstage saying “Captain Fuckface – shut up”. In my haze I was a little annoyed, but didn't say anything and carried on chatting, left the pub, ate a veggie burger and chips and crashed out.

I woke up this morning on Jon's sofa with that uneasy combination of hangover and anxiousness as my brain was deciding whether or not I had fucked up. I don't drink that much that often and am well aware that the total gobshite in me can emerge while my inebriated brain goes “Yeah! Go on Paul! You're being a charmer!”, and while everyone is in fact staring at me like I'm throttling a kitten.

I texted Amy saying thanks for the gig. Having as yet received no reply, my presumption was that I'd fucked up. This blog ( written by Carmina Masoliver, who attended both the NAC gig and the open mic, confirmed it.

Carmina says some very kind words about my performance which is always lovely to hear, but extremely gracious under the circumstances. Those circumstances being that she is understandably disappointed in me that I talked throughout the open mic session. She writes:

...the main thing for me was that Captain of the Rant and his friends ruined it for me. A guy I know from UEA’s CWS ranted about the Captain himself, calling him ‘Captain of the Fuckface’ or something… anyway, I was glad, he deserved it and I’d hoped he felt bad, but him and his mates kept on chatting. As I was impressed with his act both times I’d seen him, I was disappointed in him and I was just gutted to be honest, absolutely gutted... It’s just rude to talk over spoken word, open mic or not...”

I can only presume that others feel the same, and this makes me feel genuinely terrible. I hate seeing unprofessional attitudes in anyone, regardless of their perceived 'level' in their field. And to become that, even just for one time, makes me very angry with myself. A lot of acts attended the NAC gig, and listened attentively and gave a great response. I did not return that respect and can only apologise. A mixture of booze-driven ignorance, having an excessively loud voice and the excitement of seeing an old friend are literally my only defences, which basically equal to saying I have no defence. The poet who called me “Captain Fuckface” did exactly the right thing and, as Carmina writes, I did deserve it, and I deserve Carmina's criticisms too.

A lot of my poetry is about respect, about brushing away socially-enforced rules and respecting people as equals. I failed to live up to the ideas I talk about constantly in my spoken word, so I've not only disappointed other artists I should have been more respectful toward, I've also disappointed myself and have fallen well below my own aims as an artist.

I can fully understand Carmina's presumptions that because I perform a lot that I find it a chore and other acts are a bus man's holiday. I assure you, this is not the case. I have nothing but love for the spoken word scene and I deeply regret I did not show it fully that night.

So, to summarise: I am deeply sorry if I aggravated, annoyed or disappointed anyone. I'm sorry that my behaviour at the open mic prevented the audience and performers being able to enjoy the night fully. And I'm sorry for not showing due respect to all performers.

I can assure you that anyone who knows me professionally will attest that I am not usually drunken, boorish and obnoxious throughout gigs or in any other aspect of my professional (or social) life. This was an unfortunate, rare incident and will not be repeated.

I've learned a valuable lesson tonight, and think it's amazing that there is such a solid spoken word scene that will openly criticise artists and allow them to build on their mistakes. I think it's great that other artists have the medium, inclination and strength of character to call other artists out when their blatantly being twats.

I'm humbled.



Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Poem: Hollow Hymns

This is our final destination:

No Man's Land terminal,

terminating at the end of the lane Cain paved.

An airport slowly murdering us with boredom

with nothing but dim, echoed muzak

and our haggard,

baggy-eyed reflection in shop windows for company.

This is where we roam:

for anything to hunt and gather

on the barren litter-beaten streets,

for any semblance of what came before

we were choked by our own futures.

Futures bought and sold

without our permission.

And no, we don't have the time

because it's all run out.

This place was skinned

leaving nothing but smooth bone.

No tombstones to gather moss.

No 'We wuz ere' scrawled hopelessly on the wall.

Just gaudy, bright, buy-one-get-one-free signposts

directing the way to the rest of our lives.

A psychogeographer's nightmare:

nothing to feel out,

no energies to imbibe,

no tide of memories,

nothing blooms,

nothing dies,

and everything's too fucking clean

to glean any feeling.

Bloodless brains switch off their beams

because there's nothing to search for anymore,

no flecks of meta-historical compost

to breathe thick into your lungs,

just glimpsed postcards funnelled through

a sheeny amnesiac vacuum.

This place is a scattered, billion piece jigsaw

and occasionally there's a little reflection of

joy or remorse

but these never last long,

feeling them most

in the brief warm haze of shower masturbation

and when the fuzzy shudder gives in

with a self loathing edge

the blank tanoy intones in our heads:

Thankyou, please come again

as we step out into the smokey cold.

We're all stillborn tabla rasas,

meandering identikit pubs where

hermaphroditic bar staff

robotically offer the mantra:

Foster's, Kronenberg or Stella?

The jukeboxes only play songs

that're part of the furniture.

Foster's, Kronenberg or Stella?

And the only furniture there is

part of the wallpaper.

Foster's, Kronenberg or Stella?

And the wallpaper is peeled and cracked.

I peel back and hand over another fiver,

drinking only to lose

all the reasons why I'm drinking

with half-remembered friends

and half-forgotten fucks.

By chucking out time

we either end up in fights,

pointlessly thudding knuckles on chipped teeth,

or stagger into alleyways with strings of vomit

hanging out of our burning mouths

or drive home,

blearily watching the endless cinema road,

the repetitive, dimly illuminated black and white strobe

praying for a crash through the screen.

Unfortunately, we all arrive home safely,

drunken, undamaged, undead.

And then we don't even sleep -

our heads just go black,

and it's only in the black

where swirling shadow eyes

of Londoninium overspillers

with bomb blasts and a collective funerals

still ringing in their ears

mingle with tattered punks

and shards of basement gigs

and familiar faces

and just when these dreams

begin to gestate and co-ordinate

they're crushed by the

waking the cutting pains

of underhydration.

On star starven nights

(lit only by floating orbish streetlights

and soundtracked solely by distant glass tinkling)

I climb through a broken window

of my old school,

and wander across old horizons.

Blurs on neverending energy legs

shoot past me,

distant lost virginities glimmer.

Sober scuffles like flickering 8mm film

are screened on the edges of recollection.

Everything looks so fragile,

like an empty spider's web,

and I tread - a delicate tyrant -

scared that if I breathe too hard

everything I control will decay into

floating, windtaken ashes.

But there's no control here,

just the illusion of choice,

and slowly the crumpling begins,

and ashes fill my eyes and throat.

Helpless, I leave,

heading to what I think is still home,

or at least shelter.

I look for a way out of this town,

but the train and bus timetables have become

faded cryptic essays,

The orbital noose tightens

and I stand at the border of everything,

screaming hysterics at electric fences.

This place is a never exploding bomb threat,

a burnt out church

with scorched parchment floating in the breeze.

I strain for hollow hymns

but hear nothing,

nothing except

the slick automatic sliding doors click

and the ghosts whimpering

as they barely hang on by their fingertips.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Clips of Extreme Strangers: #1 THE MARINE

There's ruckus below. From the top deck, I hear blurred rumblings. A drunk man downstairs: American (I think), pleading faintly with the blankly authoritative, none-shall-pass tones of the driver. Usually, these altercations revolve around the bus driver battling with aggressive, alcohol-imbibed circle talk. But the antagonist here sounds meek, unable to muster an attack on the bus driver's clipped bluntness.

- Not today mate, fuck off.

This brute finality is followed by a grumbled apology, the doors hissing shut, and the drunk man's words muting against the scratched, protective plastic of the window.

I peer outside. In the artificial white light of the bus stop, the drunk man slumps on the bright red seat, deflated, hopelessly waiting. He slides out of view and mind as the bus shudders and shifts away towards increasingly unfamiliar streets. I space out, mind blanking until I'm on the well-worn ground of punk gigs, booze and failed attempts at acquiring drugs.

A few hours later, half cut, ears ringing, I wait for the night bus at New Cross, straining my hopefully at each one that approaches, and then lighting another cigarette with inevitable disappointment.

- Excuse me, sir?

A polite, deferential, slurred American accent prickles my neck. I turn. Seeing him up close for the first time: his skin so battle cracked that it's impossible pin an age to him. Despite his drunkenness, he isn't tottering or swaying – his composure is perfect. His dull, colourless eyes look straight into mine with broken confidence. His voice sounds like a staring abyss.

- Can you spare me a pound to get a beer?

- No mate, sorry.

He breaks eye contact for a moment as if to walk off or cry, then makes another attempt at connection.

- I'm a marine.

- Okay.

Silence hangs between us. He breaks it with a soft, definite, direct statement.

- I want to die.

The four words are so bluntly immediate I barely have time to register them. The stumbled, awkward question leaves my mouth before my brain can stop it.

- Why?

- Because I've killed too many men.

For a moment, I want to help him. For his disarming honesty. For his genuine wish to end his life. For all the cold pain that lies beyond his bones. I simply can't begin to comprehend the horrors he has bore witness to. The moment passes, and I fall back on a catch-all phrase, as useless and redundant as it is tactless.

- I'm sorry.

With a single resigned nod, he turns and drifts away, his future weighed down by unnumbered dead men. His hunched silhouette merges slowly with the night until there's nothing left.

My bus arrives and I go straight to the top deck. I peer out at nothing as the bus shudders and shifts away, returning me to a bright, comfortable, careless world where the dead don't exist and ghosts can only be found in stories.