Like a Sisyphean struggle in reverse
we tumbled down the mountain, most days.
It was very hot, we panted like the dogs
and sweated our tits off, as humans do
then drank very cold beer from the garage.
Sisyphus rolled that stone back up, every time.
We just hitched a lift.
Like a Sisyphean struggle in reverse
One of the cats looks at me
like he’d rip my face off
in an instant
given half a chance.
He’s a bond villain of a mog
lazy scarred right eye
and an ice cold
lipped curled snarl.
But his mew
high pitched and reedy
when food’s produced
belies any ambitions for world domination.
we talk for a bit
then he scowls again
and fucks off.
This is work is fictitious – all likenesses are coincidental
The Night Tripping Cretin and The Soured Scolopendra
On past trips, and it’d been some time, he’d often been met with the false conclusion that he’d pissed himself. With the cardboard stamp reduced to something less than pulp and the arrival of those first nudges of psychedelia – the initial tweaks and slides of vision – he would meet the odd, but it has to be said, not entirely unpleasant sensation of warm liquid running down his inner leg. It was never the case, but he would always check, just in case – you know?
And so, maybe five years since the last dabble, that valley with its vivid colours, hanging vines and fruit dripping boughs – its characters from warm to strange and its all round effervescence, a temporary escape from a world spiralling into ugly obscurantism and dark intrigue, seemed the ideal place to get lost again. When Bob offered him the opportunity he took it with a broad grin.
“If we take them now we can go down to the spring before it gets dark, have a swim, get some water and be back up here before sunset, and before we’re too fucked to walk up the mountain in the dark”
“That’s a tip-top plan if I ever heard one, Bob”
The blotters weren’t patterned or printed, just fingertip sized white squares with marbled iodine coloured splodges, slightly off centre. The two of them sat either side of the table, underneath the mezzanine bed in one of the sturdy little wattle and daub houses scattered up that side of the valley. They placed the tabs under their tongues for a couple of minutes, then chewed them out of existence with wonky smiles. Anna perched at the other end of the table also smiling at proceedings. She wasn’t going to partake (her weapon of choice was hard drink) but was clearly looking forward to the chaos.
Unbeknown to this trio of the soon to be sozzled or temporarily ‘insane’ (if, that is, you’re to believe the type of practitioner who takes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as their bible) another reveller was close by, curled away right on the edge of the mountain in the depths of Bob and Anna’s garden, biding their time before joining the party. Sam was a Scolopendra, a cingulata to be more precise – and an unusually large one at that, about 9 inches long, with a black and yellow exoskeleton far more striking than those of cousins and siblings living in neighbouring gardens and vegetable patches. And teeth, big fucking teeth.
Although glad of the luscious living space they maintained for him, Sam despised the hippie scumbags who lived here – and all their friends who were strewn up the valley. This was something else that defined Sam as different to the other centipedes in his family, and to most of the other non-human life in fact – bar a pair of seagulls who’d ended up here off their heads having got lost after a bender in Malaga. One of them had been punched in the face by a pissed Brit whose chips he’d nicked – now both fostered a deep, dark hatred of humanity. An arguably justifiable response to this indignity, considering the additional gnaw of their increasingly surreal and obscene tabloid demonisation, particularly in English seaside towns. Sam on the other hand had no such trauma in his past, he was just a bastard – a proud one at that. Long before the booze had been acquired or the stamp book slapped on the table, Sam had decided that at least one of these gutter-crawling shithouses was getting bitten tonight, he’d only get one shot so he’d make it count.
“Its getting dark, lets go. I’m not breaking any bones this early in the night – that magnitude of bollock-dropping is reserved solely for the first two hours after dawn”
“Yes. Yes, you’re right” Bob replied after a moments careful thought
“Anna, we’re going to the spring”
“I know you’re going to the fucking spring, I’ve been sat four feet away listening to you for the past hour. This isn’t the first time the question has come up…”
Bob looked blankly back at Anna for a number of moments before exploding into a spasm of laughter that bent him double, and then robbed Anna of her deadpan as she was engulfed too. Sides well and truly split they both collapsed onto the floor into a tangle of mirth.
In contrast, as his eyes met Bob’s – from their position, peering through the makeshift porthole formed by one of Anna’s legs and and his own bent forearm, they were wide with alarm, terror even. His lip hooked in a mixture of concern and disgust, face contorted. Not a snarl, no aggression, but certainly not pleasant to look at.
“Jesus Christ. Time’s more pressing than I thought – let’s go, NOW.”
Without another word Bob slid from the tangle, lay for amount and peeled himself of the slats. And turned to Anna
“We’re going now, we’ll be back soon” Visibly trying to stifle another clownish seizure
They left for the spring, taking the lower path from the house, the one that dropped away sharply before meandering through yurt and bender encampments and past other people’s houses before arriving by the stream at the bottom of the valley.
There was still relatively good light but illumination, or lack of it, wasn’t the first obstacle. Engaging that initial steep slope with a level of haste and enthusiasm that anyone in their right mind would regard as dangerously overzealous in such a situation, his feet went from feeling feather light and imbibed with confidence to, in less than an instant, entirely disappearing from beneath him. He was propelled head first down the last ten feet of the path into a sort forward roll, as you might expect to be executed by an incredibly bad gymnast after a bottle and a half of a scotch.
He’d gone 180 degrees arse over tit and landed flat on his back. A wave rolled through him and every last cubic millimetre air rushed from his lungs in slow motion, with a low satisfied whistle. In his head it sounded like a rough sample of a drum that had been hit dead hard, and then stretched so you could hear every last grain of distortion separately.
He was splayed on the sod like a dead starfish on the beach, unable to move – it might have been a minute, but could conceivably have been a lot longer. And then as rapidly as life had apparently left him, so it returned with force – the sharp intake of breath becoming a growling guffaw on exit, now he was drowned in the hysterics, which quickly overwhelmed Bob once more who joined him in fits on the dusty ground.
“Degenerates.” Sam muttered. He’d crawled further up the mountain and was perched on a crag watching them stumble to the spring with John, the seagull that had got battered in Malaga.
“fackin’ cants, they make me fakin sick” squawked John.
“Then why haven’t you done anything about them before now, you rank coward? You’ve got a five foot wing span and a beak that can rip a pigeon open”
“YOU CAN SHAT THE FACK UP TOO, I’LL PECK YOUR EYES OUT LIKE THEY’RE CHOCOLATE FACKIN’ BUTTONS. CANT!!
John shrugged his wings forward, took a menacing strut towards Sam and lunged at him in warning.
“You don’t scare me. I’ve got enough cardiotoxin in my venom glands to put your entire family to sleep, you clap ridden winged rodent. Now, if you wouldn’t mind fucking the fuck off – I’ve got a soap-dodging parasite to hospitalise, and if those two imbeciles see you flapping around like a twat you might blow my cover”
“SQWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK” John roared in Sam’s face and swooped off across the valley.
Sam wound his way through the foliage back down to the garden, hissing to himself in fury as he came across new clusters of bushy plants with five fingered leaves, bouncing with vitality “Spoilt bastards” He spat. He’d seen this gaggle of subnormal humans (some measure of his dislike – because he couldn’t usually find it in himself to tolerate the normal ones) in every possible state – the ups, downs and out of bodies, the shit and vomit, the screams and the laughter, but those plants particularly annoyed him – their sickly sweet smell, the pampering care that the morons took of them, and the slovenly twitching zombies that they turned into when they over consumed the fruits they bore. Reaching the small plateau the garden sat on he slithered into the bush that’d he been reccying for the last few days – next to the three threadbare sun loungers they so often ended up slothed on at some stage in the evening. And Sam waited, listening for the return of their babbling gibberish on the cool night air.
Natalia and Edo were sat by the spring drying off and smoking as he and Bob spilled over the last foot fashioned rock step and through the final fronds and leaves, flailing and chattering with equal goof. They lived in the house next door. Both deeply beautiful people in every respect, they’d come and introduced themselves the first day he’d arrived at the house and they had chatted warmly for a while. Unfortunately in his current lysergic flap and fluster the faces rang bells, but who knows what tune they were playing.
“Helloooooooo” As he was speaking he knew he was holding on to the word for far too long, but could do little about it. Like a misled but thoroughly confident Victorian quack he took a step with his left foot, having convinced himself this would trigger some manner of physiological response and cause him to kill the interminable ‘oooooooo’. It didn’t, he over-reached by some way and what he’d hope would be a small corrective step involuntarily became an exaggerated stride. So much so that his right knee touched the ground and he was forced into an impromptu impersonation of a gale stricken aeroplane as he tried to stabilise himself with his arms.
Their posture was odd to his eye, all wrong – proper, untwisted. The hands too, no digits dancing in the air, playing invisible pianos as they spoke. They’d have to be approached with due care.
“…we met the other day” Natalia added.
A silence had yawned between the two utterances – his assessment of them had clearly taken far too long – he looked odd, and couldn’t remember meeting them or what the fuck their names were.
Bob on the other hand had been through a miraculous transformation – worthy of a nursery tale, or a gospel story. From clambering up the steps with the motor skills of a blindfolded infant he’d stripped and plunged into the crystal pool in one silent flourish
“Get in, this instant. It’ll help, takes the edge off” Bob commanded
His words weren’t to be ignored, they were compelling, stoic and earnest.
“I’m very sorry. I don’t remember meeting you, and I don’t know who you are”
He said to Natalia and Edo with marvellous clarity, before turning to the pool, dropping his shorts and getting inexorably stuck in his vest, which had wrapped itself around his head like a face-sucker.
“Would you like some help?” Edo enquired
“Yes please. I think I do need some help” he replied, his voice trembling but not quiet breaking.
Edo carried out the untangling promptly and with remarkable precision.
“Thank you Edo, thank you from the bottom of my heart. That could have got really nasty”
He threw himself into the pool, drenching the perplexed saviour as he did so. The water was wonderful, utterly exquisite, bringing electricity to every last nerve ending. And those moments of near silence as he plunged his head below the surface followed by the return of colour, the drone of the trees, stars switching on like lights set to a timer switch as he came up for air and stood staring at the sky – still half submerged in the pool.
“OI! Man, ey, man! I need help. I NEED HELP!”
The confidence of only minutes earlier had drained from Bob’s voice. He snapped his head around and saw that the nymph like elegance had taken it’s leave as well. His friend was angled around the large water carrier, almost as though it was part of him, as he tried to fill it from the spring – a mass of limbs, plastic and jets of water, resembling an enormous, crude and malfunctioning catheter
“I don’t think I can help man. I can’t see where you start and it finishes – you’re on your own”
The contorted lip hook of confusion and terror returned – he craned his neck and watched as Bob, by some sort of gravity defying black magic, filled the carrier from the crack in the rock and extricated himself from the complex web of stretches, balances and reaches
“Wow. That was a close run thing – sorry, shameful behaviour on my part
“Happens to us all” Bob replied “Lets go” The purpose returning to his voice.
It was now dark as fuck. They hadn’t bought a torch and could only hope the moonlight would save them from a compound break followed an unholy cocktail of blood, psychedelics and a long wait for the ambulance.
Meanwhile Sam was getting impatient. “Bastards! Where the fuck are they?” he was muttering over again, having crawled himself quite a deep circular rut as he paced round and round and round.
And then “woopwoopwoopwoooop FUCK OFF!” came warbling up the hill delicately on the breeze, and with this outburst of nonsense, he knew he was on. It was now or never. The distant shitchatting came closer and closer, and then they appeared puffing and panting – having climbed the hill they made such fools of themselves descending earlier – and made straight for the rickety sun loungers. “So predictable” Sam crooned to in self satisfaction. The long haired one, who he knew all to well, took the middle lounger and the recently arrived scrote – who seemed to lack spacial awareness even when sober – plonked himself inches away from Sam’s soil fortifications – continuing to spew verbal diarrhoea and wave his limbs “Perfect” And Sam ventured from the bus, fixed on the fleshy outstretched right leg.
“Man, it looks like an observatory – the skies being stretched, look you see where the poles are propping it up? where those ripples are, there…it’s a big fucking fabric screen stretched on poles”
“I know what you mean about the observatory, I mean there’s A LOT of stars. But I don’t see the ripples or the screen”
“Shit, maybe there’s a problem with eyes, let me have a look…let me have a look dickhead!”
He lumbered across Bob grabbed his neck for support, closed one of his eyes for better focus and peered into Bob’s
“Its ok, they’re fine from what I can see. Probably a brain problem, you should see a specialist”
And then, there it was, the familiar sensation. Had he pissed himself? Surely not. It definitely did feel like he’d pissed himself. He looked down. He hadn’t pissed himself, but there was something he didn’t recognise. About nine inches long, black and yellow, with a lot of legs and teeth, big fucking teeth. It was crawling up the leg of his shorts. He stared at it. The stripes of block colour were striking, mesmerising at the best of times – but positively hypnotising in his current head space.
“BOB! Look! I thought I’d pissed myself, but its some fuck off black and yellow caterpillar – its AMAZING!’”
Bob turned and looked. “FUCK!! Man that’s really poisonous” In one fell swoop he landed the beasty a glancing blow – a risky operation when dealing with something nestling in somebody’s crotch. It helicoptered a couple of feet into one of the bushes.
“FUCKFUCKUFCKFUCK!!” Sam screamed, head throbbing from the thug’s blow as he landed on his back, in the bush he’d staked out so meticulously, legs treading the air frantically.
“Shite. Hideous bastards. They’ll rue the fucking day”
We pad out
The Bear, Barish and me.
In morning’s shade
and evening’s dust.
I don’t need a watch
my legs wound around
when it’s time.
Until I heed,
until they know I’ve fetched the lead
they nuzzle snap and slaver
with nothing but affection.
At cross roads they know
there is a choice of routes, and dither.
The Bear sighs
but, in jubilant youth,
Barish bounces likes a spring
until we decide our direction
There are leaps into irrigation ditches
and frantic fits of tail
as we take sniffed trails to nowhere
through other people’s fields.
The Bear pretends he’s too old for that
but he’s not,
he loves it,
just gets the hump when he runs out of puff.
And when he does, Barish knows
and goes for his nose
in playfulness, yet to have learned else.
At the crest of the track, tongues flap.
Not just theirs.
Our trio turns on its heels,
sweated backs to the sierra.
Below rolls out pueblos,
plains and their turbines,
the pits and abandoned buildings
of the open cast mines.
We sit in silence
or at least I do, and they take my lead
for a few moments
their restless shuffles and jumps cease.
Not for long though, and soon we carry on down
back to La Balsa.
I’m fixed with wide sad eyes,
until food is produced,
and then battle, with bristles
and beady bobbing cluckers begins.
The Bear gives no ground as they peck the gravel
and cast wide circles around him.
A low throaty rumble
becomes a growl and bared teeth
before his bellow
if their sinewy feet trespass too close.
When he roars, they run
and from feather fat gullets
their annoyance is crowed,
and, in defeat, Barish is approached.
He whistles and whimpers in bamboozlement
then, with no conviction at all, goes for a throat
and is met with beak and slapped by wing.
I get the doleful stare until
I introduce the broom to defend his dinner
for such time until he finds distraction
in dragon flies and passing felines.
Finally, both full and exercised,
as the proverb demands,
they sleep and are left to lie.
I was taken to La Paterna
a small town near Valencia
by a good friend.
We went to the cemetery
and stood by the fossars.
They are pits where
with nothing but lime
murdered sons and daughters
mothers and fathers were thrown.
Three thousand people.
The brave, who would not straighten their arms
or unclench their fists.
Refused to renounce their loyalty to the people
or swear an oath to the generals and their god.
I did not know what expression to wear
and could speak no words.
Now seventy eight years
since the crimes began in this place
there is resistance again
fought with brush, sieve and swab.
Below us the fossar was open
three were knelt in the red dust
recovering history and memory.
Returning it to those from whom it was stolen
from whom it has been held captive
as they were told to forget.
Don’t put the lights out
let stares harden,
or eyes lose their smile.
Draw the warmth close,
drive out only cruelty.
And embrace hope, it rises.