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  • Endless Joke
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Friday
Jun092017

Kettering

"Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole." — Oscar Wilde

***

O England. We lived and loved in a caravan in Somerset. On holiday with my mad friend and his half-mad family, I would steal across dim eventides to you, in your own small caravan where you stayed and helped your mum. Her problems were like prisms floating off in someone else's periphery. Her heart was good but her mind was shattered, weary of shadows, trying to reassemble on the abandoned half of the moon. She even liked me. Mothers always did, though. We were fourteen or fifteen, then. Sixteen at a pinch. The tender shimmer of our confidence barely burgeoning, yet reciprocal. Our summer days were wrung dishrags with pendent cloud and a fine mist that felt like tidal spray on our upturned faces yet tasted of nothing much. Like sweat without salt. We treated the sun like an interloper. 

Teens have a homing call, and we were no different. Scrawny pigeon things, we were, skewed preemptive magnets in our brains. In a village hall, someone half-arsed a disco, strung some weak synaptic lights, set up a turntable and blared Anita Ward and Tubeway Army 45s most of the night while locals and tourists partway mingled, got heartily, lustily sick on Southern Comfort, gorged on faded plastic bowls of salted peanuts, and largely failed at sex. 

Avid, irreverent, spectacular, reticent. Are frenemies electric? 

Does aristocrat rhyme with wrong side of the tracks?

Partially. I'll come in, but I stutter on the high notes.

Prince and pauper, some bright daughter. See those eyes.

Those Tesla eyes. Scattering. Dost thou know who made thee?

Your music the gauze of summer draped, festooned across this eternal valley.

Silver jubilee? Impromptu street party? Nah, mate. That was then. Now lifelong enemies. 

Edison. Faraday. Tell me when it's time to jettison.

Right. Are you at last the axe for the frozen sea within? 

Will you let us in? Kettering. The unbearable lightness of Kettering.

The unpaved road to whose damn heart, my loves?

Yes, we pause on the stinking asphalt of a busy road, Abington Street, that dumb weekend, dripping blood from our off-kilter mouths, our sliced-up knuckles and forearms torrenting, a-stagger in some pointless random place reeking of stale beer and layers of old oil, broken glass embedded in our wounds and spitting out the bloody fragments of our teeth, now serrated like steak knives by steel-toed boots, our bells truly rung, ding-dong, ding-dong, while anxious drivers honk their horns and the restless weekend lopes along, regardless of, indifferent toward, our savage choreography, our unsolicited valium nightfall… but have you once spared a single thought for Kafka or Kundera, let alone fucking Kettering? 

It sounds like some cold North Atlantic breakfast, made with rice and fish, eaten by men in thick woollen sweaters listening to wheezing organs and melancholy strings while robustly stabbing the hope out of an assortment of sea life. I'm outside the hut and utterly lost. Antichrist, domesticate, concussed, you appalling fuck, come love me. I have barely anything left to give. 

What is left?

The song of a bird that has come to love its cage.

O England.

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Reader Comments (2)

This is so...oh, poetic I'd have to say, David.. Language redolent of sounds, sights, smells and even the feeling of a tongue counting how many teeth still abide in original condition. I can almost imagine it being inspired -- like Proust in Remembrance of Things Past -- whenever you have the taste of blood in your mouth, the feelings of skinned knuckles or inhaling the yellowish cloud of hastily poured and messily quaffed beer floating head-high in some bar. Beautiful stuff, my friend.

June 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Hesch

That's wonderful feedback, Joe. And given your own deft control of our wonderful language, it's flattering indeed. And this is based on an actual incident, so you're spot on! Yeah, that feeling of running your tongue over your teeth and being happy they're all still there but the edges are no longer smooth. Not fun. lol Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

June 10, 2017 | Registered CommenterDavid Antrobus

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