Spend the evening pressing flesh and spending money.
That, after all, is what it’s for. And,
well, money’s money.
Fat and fatuous, a fatal
combination—when not being
utterly, utterly charming.
Stretching to 3 or 4, I’d say
and a slap on the wrist.
hang about, squeezed tubes in a rasp,
and the spitting, the spitting image
of suited shades loitering around
in the afterlife,
all on tenterhooks,
the very dregs,
with flickering porcine eye,
too keen by half,
a-trot in the half-dark,
one little pig, 2 or 3, 4
at a stretch
belted and buckled and gaping on,
buttoned and bottled
and raising a queer sort of
not quite human,
a-squeal in the dust-yard,
the harsh cross-light of history, I’d say,
the torture-chamber herself,
steam and quite unmistakable smell
of freshly cut carcase,
a nose for blood,
5 and no more, tubes full
and the gutter-grey suddenly
a luminous shade of hope,
a pink-eyed shade,
falling over oneself,
over and over
as if entirely bereft of the scaffolding of bones,
fresh to the trough,
through the sublime carpentry
of our unmaker,
sliding down stairwells,
in the hoof of the tongue
that pop like bubbles
on the roof and gums,
the heart sucks and quivers,
shoves the hub and heel
with the delightful infinity
of going against the drill pattern,
all the old numbers,
gown flapping open
at the cuffs and ankles,
streaked with heaven knows what stain,
ardent stain, no more naked clothed
than cut open by the gaze,
chest and armpit,
touch is the subtle retractor.
And the horizon deepening,
the departed on the farther shore beckoning
or, who can tell,
impossible clouds looming.
It has been like this always
but you have not noticed the lips on your partner,
his chest heaving and sobbing,
her self-awareness quickened
by the sudden attention
of a, can it be? an oldish man,
to make it harder on her,
he is spitting forward his false teeth
and sucking them back,
to make it harder on him,
he is now retching into her lap,
now looking up into her eyes,
her lashes nothing flying can escape,
and fearing his gorge rising,
sending his questions flying,
and she is asking
what is the question he has for her?
but it is vomit
it hits the stainless steel at a bad angle
and splashes onto the friend
who receives as a gift,
who, quite unbelievably, saw it coming
and got him into the nearest mens
she is not there when he gets back.
The old man has taken her home with him.
Only the male interest remains.
The subtle retractor is brilliant at extracting information
under the disguise of chance,
a chance meeting
with the torturer after many years,
buying sausage at the same store,
thinking, I am not in the same torture chamber
I was before.
Only to feel the years rush away and the dryness
in the throat return
and the blood pumping in the guts again
and pinching of the tubes, throbbing,
a rasp and boot stamping down.
How out of place I must seem! You think,
at the delicatessen counter of the supermarket.
But it is not a private feeling.
The electric saw that cuts him cuts me.
Her lips that speak also refuse.
They lead to the rallies
and the rallies lead to the arrests
and the arrests will never stop
until names are named. They
The lips that refuse are removed.
They are removed in hospital rooms.
Not in butcher’s shops.
The light is flat,
sometimes at sunset a luminous pink
and the scent of fresh flowers beside the bed.
On the lavatory table.
The best of care.
The first surgery will cut off the tongue.
The second will take the teeth from the upper jawbone
and remove the lower jawbone in total.
The last surgery will join the skin where
the mouth was to allow a small tube,
no larger than a straw,
for food to pass down.
The whole procedure will be perfected
by erasing any trace
of there having been any surgery at all.
Without lips the subject will
look on without mouth.
And the flowers will be changed
beside the bed.
The curtain will be pulled to protect
No pain will have been meted out.
In the absence of words, all words
will have been reduced to
a simple whistling
from the hole
where the lips had been,
a high tone for excited
while a low one means relaxed.
A singing-along with everything.
The whole story will stay in the eyes
but the eyes will be in the background.
In the foreground will be the monstrosity.
The monstrosity will always be in the foreground.
How lovely to be able to give to the young
what their dreams and visions spell out
to them without benefit of hindsight or
Another one’s nose was removed
without the least trace being left
in a perfection of which
even the most consummate artist
or the best cosmetic surgeon
could be envious.
Not no nose to speak of:
one with no nose to speak,
one with no nose at all.
An immaculate disfigurement.
I have thought about these things.
About terrorism as the atom bomb
of the poor. And the murder of a young
It was never a young child. It was a sucking
in foul street. We share breath
tonight you and it.
I, I will always be on its side.
You be on yours.
It was never a dairy owner.
It was that dairy owner.
You will never be a dairy owner.
On your side of the counter
are lined up the prime minister
and the camera crew, the minister
for justice, the twelve jurors, and you,
it has slit a neck and the weightless blood
bubbles and joins into larger bubbles
and float and burst,
according, as it is said,
to the breeze blowing from paradise.
Now in a steady rain
gently falling on every man,
woman, and on those
who are scarcely even here, their
short lives, pets and children,
the animals left in the mist
of the species which did not survive.
On indigenes in general
count among the fallen
on your side of the counter
everyone after a certain number,
the certainest number
When you look at the face of money—nothing
but when you look at the face of age—living
hard to give it up
smashed in my car
the ribs clawing at the metal
the rods, racks, the pinions
poking here and there
pain like a crisp clear
like a crisp clear
hard to enter into because it is the last,
like waking on a dawn and refusing waking
no warm arms
no support of life
where there’s always room inside
the entry so narrow—
the exit is so wide
a slice even when followed next instant
by the crack of bone-break is different,
a connoisseur can hear it,
a victim feels it
but worse, much the worst—knowledge:
to know a hand cannot be re-attached
and know the ligaments, nerves and sinews
separated, to know the parting of the limb,
the eye, ear, the torn or cut, the split, the
lost organ, to know from this waking
no going back
the body at a point of no return
your body, I know
your body, your face billows
out from it and I want to take a pin
Your hands lift your face like wet clothes
try to put it back in place
and hold it, feel it slipping
from your fingers, dripping heavy
as wet clothes, a drapery impossible
to fix back on its scaffold
Your face today so full of self-satisfaction
unlike money: to stare at the face of money
is to feel the blood drain out
nothing come back at it with its privilege
to be nothing joyless
like looking in a shop window.
somewhere in the distance
the sound of boots
Hell to be got by humans, by human
hands, before the flood
hell to be erased from face to foot
hell to waste all the flesh has put away
for the soul to enjoy
in old age—not to laugh, of course,
the soul is artificial, which is why
it lasts but an instant
burns everything up
even the reason for its existence
the air itself. There it is.
There it is.
There is nothing else. May as well
admit it. A burden. But to get rid of it
would be to assume there’s something
else, something other than this. There
isn’t. Bear it.
The children are arriving.
Hear the boots?
Somewhere a shop window
with all its five fingers
and five toes
a monstrous thing
smash it with a brick!
do its head in!
something has gone very wrong.
[performed 19 November 2016
at Auckland Old Folks Ass. by Minus Theatre:
with the assistance of Monique Wakaka
directed by Simon Taylor]