A Piece of Fabric

They would raise their arms
they would shout his name

The bodies and faces
whispering and
falling over

What a waste.

Knocking on bedroom doors

He tidied all the papers
stored and stacked it all
and he was happy

The man kept waving

A piece of fabric flapping

nearly to his nipples
frantic messages:
he didn’t know what it was
that the man wanted him to do

What a waste

And the knot was not untied
for all the pulling at it
straining at it
pulled it tighter

The word was not
negligent, neglectful,
or ignorant, thankless
or uncaring

The word was broken
from our heart to our voice
even to the ear that bends to listen:

He hit him again and again
the water that dribbled.
He smelt the smell.
He heard the laughter


Clean hands over the white pages

Laughter sustained by sheer technique

Dribbled down the clean white paper
The writing is fractured
the heart is

The thorn burning
The narrow beams of light are
where we walk in silhouette

Mascaraed eyes
delicate hands
small escapes

Worm and time
the cruel rot
drawn in to her left breast

The day hasn’t exactly gone like it could.
My son threw up
when he heard the priest

and I kissed the spot
on Dad’s forehead
where the oil was thumbed.

It tasted rancid.

Oh Christ, Tony.

Their haloed hats at all angles

His light cotton trousers

Knelt, crawled and bled

Soldiers in the square
in the chalky white street

Face, hand, gown

Thin flesh
Fine stones
Salt veins

Fine lines
pulsed and crawled

The ways were myriad
The destination was always the same

Theatre was the life.
You couldn’t turn it around

You couldn’t for example
make a smaller plate from the pieces
of a broken plate

It was the word.
It wasn’t shameless.

In a mist of sun
in the same haze of sun
A sequence of gestures

The scratch of a match
The breath expelled
The key in the door
The flick of a card
that takes the trick

Oblong bleached shutter
Window pane, the tasseled edge
of one rug, a hint of glimmer
from a cornice, a lazy swirl
of marble
Dream of circling doves

Too soon
the eye of the camera
the dark vee of hair

You only add the years up
when you know it’s over.

From off
I broke it

A long, telling moment
To the shutter, to the haze
of sun and dream of circling doves
excited circles
into the cross-fade

What a waste
they were shameless
and treated you shamefully

is shameful more
or less than shameless?

Not like an artist, not even a man
power undiminished

It was night
The barely moving water
Pressing the young man back
into the rich, buttoned leather
of the banquette

Their mouths were insolent

enormously pissed
sucking off her face

with nothing but silence, silence

he stares in a puddle impassively

Who is he?

on the edge of the berm at the roadside

A cipher?

useless, animal, useless

A bloody awful party
Black letters

The small agony
Quite alone

visual non sequitur, sexual

numbed and dumbed

green isolation

if the state of a nation’s soul was shown
in the health and number of its theatres

in the sunshine of amateur enthusiasm
in the novelty of unplanned ‘do it yourself’

Each day they would stop at eleven a.m.
Twanged in the fence
and hung there

We have a right to celebrate
the tragic knowledge

Her drink down his back

that it doesn’t get easier
that it never has been
that it never was

One thousand years of incense

He was far too thin

How could they do that to him?

It looked, just for a moment
strange and out of place
A bad thing

It stood, prick-eared
It was the end

A piece of fabric winding in a screw

They held their hands to their mouths
And what are you going to do for us?
Said the director.


Oh. No, they all said
I’m an observer

Listen: I have a story to tell you

Jars and fat, brown urns filled with dry grasses,
toi toi and splitting, fluffing rods of bull rushes

Little peanut
I am alone

What a waste
and the knot was never untied

all the picking at it
only pulled it tighter


Teeth and nails
Teeth and nails

None of the spelling was right
but that’s what it said.

Panting and sweating
crossing and re-crossing
over and over
rocking and crying
rocking and crying


What if not larger than life
was theatre
after all?

One by one
they could not understand


A dog
Lines of light and shade cut
Bars of sun and dark shade
Eyes in shadow
Tears in sunlight
To end
For ages

The little boys have expensive old skin
they smell like rubbish in the fields
for he is with me

You don’t take anything, he said,
I give it.
Wire cages
Bare bulbs
Bloody animal
Wet whisper
To find contact

as if he’d been buried
The repressed expiration of smoke.

We had a special time
stones cast long shadows

as if paint spots running
on the pavement

the best light rose from the ground
came in
under the low branches
like a mist

not even a man

many friends

It shouldn’t be here
Lifted arm by arm
Leg by leg
from the wreckage

Struggle for breath

It appeared it was a very serious situation

A piece of fabric tightening

We stay open until the last person has gone

Wiping and blowing and banging and tipping,

overcome by something he didn’t understand,
and without speaking again

With his arms
and his love.

He said near the end beyond his means
how could he compete as he had lived
with last words?

He said he was.
He is.

He is the present
refused for reasons of economy.

She kept going.

It’s something that can never be explained.

What a waste.
a notice
a fence
a card
a shop window
a cat
a _____

a waste

And the knot was not untied

We talk to each other
in our solitude

What do you talk about?

Oh, mainly recipes.

A duet of broken lines

because I have broken into
my father’s room
and stolen from his writing.

What have they done?
What have they done to him?


What do you hear?


What do you see?


What do you smell?


And what do you taste?


What do you feel?


Are you all right?
How are you?

are you?


An arrow here, a shaft of light there,
maybe a broken spear or some tongues of fire.

Teeth and breath
Cut and pieces
The flesh.

A piece of his fabric in the wind

What a waste.

To say no to the gift
when you are it
the gift
the present

He thought back to a time
when his body hadn’t mattered,
when he dragged it around with his soul,
waiting and praying to be granted just one act
of creation.

When you comprehend it
without understanding

refusing communication


The writing fractured
because the heart is

and the thorn aflame
the fire races


in the dry

I wish I had a chisel for your hearts
you men of stone

we know what a king does with nothing
deriving nothing from it
not a grey man

What’s a fool to do?

stand before you
with an embarrassment of empty pockets

This is what a fool does with nothing

in my motley

Another nail in the coffin of theatre.

What wealth will we bury?
too much

even this
where less
is more

nothing else.

The land that was fat got thinner
even then, it was still the land of our fathers
in many cases it was not

The language we spoke was the same
even our voices
were mistaken for each other’s

belonging by not

stood together
one flesh
one selvage

Doors were ever open
chairs pushed up to the windows
looking out

Soul not for sale
the fire was out of reach

in many cases
it was not

That’s where I’ve come from, he said.
And look. There is no trace.
Where I walked has disappeared.
Each footprint, every sign of passage,
just fills up behind me.

What have they done?

Nobody would believe me.

That’s where I’m going, he said.
It never gets any closer.
And I can’t see it
and I don’t know what it is.

Repetition, repetition.

Reach for another tissue.
Take turns

Gentle tissue
Soft fabric
Sweet selvage

We have to go now.
But they couldn’t get out.

It wasn’t the best of days


in the grease, the wire, the coils


the dark brooding of the hills and the dunes,
grey promontories
and the rolling seas around them
and figures like paper doll cutest
hardly visible in the tumbling
monochromatic vision
of an overwhelming nature.

Large and clear cut
marched the letters of his life

I knew it.
I knew it all the time.

a shadow in the shadows,
just waiting until he too
could pass into total darkness.


Once, I had many friends.

It wasn’t much, he knew.
But it was all that he had to say.

His trousers

trailing a cigarette from his hand,
walked out
over the sand.

[for my father,
Anthony Frederick Taylor
2/1/1937 – 24/4/2009.

A Piece of Fabric includes 304 lines
from his unpublished novel,

Eric and Friends,
otherwise known as
A Mouthful of Air.
These appear in italics.]