Monday, January 26, 2015

Essay: BY KEROUAC'S GRAVE

By Kerouac’s Grave
by Pat King

Sure, but I do realize that I’m quite the vain man, the pain-in-the-ass man. Dear friends, this is why I love looking at old pictures of myself, love showing them to other people. “Look, look, here I am! I’m real! Let me tell you a little about myself…” Most of the pictures are casual snapshots, taken either by my dad or mom. They’re nice enough things to look at and, in my dad’s case, done with a certain sense of aesthetics, since he was always an amateur photography enthusiast. However, among all the snapshots and pictures taken on vacations and holidays, there’s one picture that I particularly cherish. It just sums up a moment so completely. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite picture.

Observe the photo’s composition: it’s framed deliberately, thoughtfully. It’s meant to evoke something very specific, perhaps something that the photographer only knew unconsciously, after all, she had only a moment to snap the thing. It’s clear that the photographer is trying to get at the real meat of the subject. The subject was my sad, dead-drunk face, my broken heart.
The photographer was Katie Jachowski. Later she would become Katie King, my beautiful wife. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’m so attached to the photo, because Katie took it. But Katie’s taken a lot of pictures in which I’ve been the subject. No, this picture is special. This one says so much.

Observe my late-20’s hipster long hair and the hoodie I was wearing and the all-too-serious look about my face. I wasn’t happy.

The picture was taken on an unusually warm mid-October day in 2007, the final morning of an annual Jack Kerouac festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. The weekend had been a blur. We didn’t go to many events. Only one, actually. It was a Jazz brunch kind of thing that I have vague memories of. We wandered the city and drank whiskey in our hotel room. The whole thing had a tie-wearing, appeal-to-authority kind of vibe. We had more fun just doing our own thing. We did, however, make sure to visit the original On the Road manuscript. The teletype scroll was on display at a textile museum.

That whole trip had a kind of lost weekend feel.

I wonder whether that look in my eyes, the one that Katie captured so well in that picture, was the same one a literature professor saw when he said to me, “Just don’t end up like him,” meaning Kerouac, after I had casually mentioned my weekend plans to him: the drive from Baltimore to Lowell, the readings, how much I was looking forward to the whole thing.

End up like Kerouac?

Like drinking myself to death, living my last decade in isolation, shunning my friends and dying from cirrhosis of the liver? Nah, man, not me. I was 27 years old and never going to die. I liked excess, I liked extremes. So what if I had been drinking and overeating for the past decade? What the hell? This guy, this tie-wearing literary professor thought that I was romanticizing Kerouac’s life. I guess he figured I thought it  would be cool to die in physical and mental anguish, to have my body shut down. Get a life, man. Fucking asshole.

Well…

Maybe I was kind of on the way toward killing myself. It’s hard to say for sure, because by that time I didn’t really drink with any real frequency. I would binge, sure, but I would also go cold turkey for a few months at a time. But couple that with my out of control eating and it was obvious that a breakdown of some kind was coming.
It crept up slowly, but it seemed so sudden.

I was already overweight when the picture at Kerouac’s grave was taken, but I would keep gaining. Seven years later, I was 310 pounds. A hulking beast of a man who could barely walk without getting winded.
In late September 2014, I had just started a new supermarket job. I had only been there for a full day and a half day when the freakout happened. I’d been noticing that, for the past week or so, my vision had been getting bad. I used to have perfect 20/20 sight, but now I couldn’t see much past a few feet ahead of me. I thought maybe my eyes were sore or something. I didn’t know what was going on. I just figured it would get better on its own. But it didn’t get better. On that second day of work, I noticed that I couldn’t see a customer’s face across from the deli counter. I panicked and said that I needed to leave.

I went home. I told Katie what was happening and she came home early from work and took me to the emergency room. The nurse nearly gasped when she saw that my blood sugar was at 445, way over the normal 60 - 100 range. No good. Diabetes. Katie and I sat in the waiting room, silent, for about thirty minutes, until I was admitted.
Over the next four hours, I was given insulin. My sugar got down to about 140. After a long lecture on what I could eat (not much) and what I couldn’t (just about everything I liked), I was finally discharged. My vision had already started getting better before we left the hospital. It took a few days, but it finally returned to normal.
I was devastated. I took the next day off of work. I figured I was fucked. Surely I was going to get fired.
I lay in bed, self-pity washing over me. All I wanted was to sleep, to drift away…

Katie got home from work that afternoon and walked into our little apartment to find that I had locked myself in the bedroom. I didn’t really mean anything by it. I just wanted to be alone for a while. But I guess I did mean something by it. Katie, panicked and afraid, called my dad, who drove 45 minutes just to talk to me. I wouldn’t let him in either, so he talked to me through my locked door. As always, he was kind, gentle, his voice soothing. He did his best to talk me down from my freakout. Finally, after about an hour, he asked, “What’s next? What’s the next step?”

I said, “I’m going to work tomorrow.”

I knew I had to do it. It was a daunting step because of my embarrassment over being so new and already calling out -- a working class dilemma if there ever was one. But if I could just make it through the day, through the awkward motions of a new job and new people, then the worst of it would be over. Then I could really get going.
And so I went to work. A couple of days later, I started to walk.
It was only a few blocks at first. I got winded easily. But I kept walking. Every day at first, then five days a week, pushing myself a little more each time. Months later, I started to jog. I still have to alternate between jogging and walking, but I’m getting there. I’m making progress. I’m going to make it.

By December 2014, I’d lost over 50 pounds. I was still about 260 pounds, quite a bear of a man, but getting smaller, getting healthier. I was also eating right. Meat and vegetables, bread every once in a while. No sugar. And I started meditating again, something I hadn’t done for months. All this is to say that, while these aren’t the happiest days of my life, they might end up being the most contented.

But, man, that picture. Sitting cross-legged at Kerouac’s grave didn’t mean much to me at the time, except maybe that I got a cool picture of myself out of it, a way of saying, “I was there.” But now I look at it and can’t help but see a kid. A kid pushing thirty who thought he knew his trajectory. I was trapped by a faulty sense of imagination. I’m 34 now, and far less sure of myself than I was back then. But what did being sure of myself ever get me?

Sometimes I can’t help but shake because of the immensity of it all.

 Thank you, Katie. I love you.  


Pat King is the author of the classic underground novel EXIT NOTHING. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Review: MERRY-GO-ROUND by Bryn Fortey

The Alchemy Press, 2014

"Merry-Go-Round" has been available for a while now. It's a perfect gem of a book by a writer who I've only known, previously, for his poetry. According to the introduction by editor Johnny Mains, however, Bryn has been writing stories like those featured alongside the poetry here for years and years. Shows what an authority I am.

I know some of the poetry. So might you, if you read the little magazines, or if you saw me read them at a festival last summer. They're presented in six sections between the stories, and they explore some of Bryn's familiar themes--music and family in particular. His science fiction poetry is new to me. A taxi driver on Mars studies to keep his brain ticking over. The Siren Women of a distant planet slaughter their males by tearing their flesh with sharp teeth.

Clearly the self-deprecating Mr. Fortey has an imagination as wild as H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe. And they are the authors I kept thinking of as I read the stories. Not because Bryn is copying them, or even, necessarily, influenced by them; I'm not an expert in horror or science fiction, genres that most of the stories fall into, so if the author's style has precedents, I almost certainly don't know them. But the horror stories, especially "Shrewhampton North-East", which starts the collection, have an eerie mystery, and a perversity, that almost belongs in the Victorian periodicals. (When I say the stories are perverse, I mean that as a compliment.)

And like Wells, Bryn's science fiction takes us to places our own minds could not conceive of. He imagines technological advances that allow for the instantaneous transfer of human beings from one place to another, or from one time to another. Time travel, of course, is one of the most venerable tropes of science fiction, but Bryn handles it with real ingenuity. In "The Oscar Project" the protagonist journeys back to the days before Christ's execution--an interesting premise in itself for an author who has rejected religion, as Bryn seems to have done. I won't spoil your reading by telling you what happens, but the drama that unfolds is intensely gripping and beautifully described.

As I've already written, music is never far away when Bryn's around. It's something he and I have in common. Other stories in the collection concern his beloved jazz, a subject he writes about as well as anyone. I like most "The Pawn Shop Window", a melancholy tale about a trumpet player who lives in the Golden Age of jazz but never makes it. In some ways, at least for me, that one's about poets too: all the really wonderful men and women Bryn has known and I have known who lived hard lives trying to bring something to the world that the world didn't want. People in the small press whose stars were eclipsed by greater talents (like Louis Armstrong in the story), or lesser talents, like the poetasters whose academic connections got them mainstream publication and write-ups in the TLS.

You can probably still order copies of "Merry-Go-Round" online at www.alchemypress.co.uk. I think it's a very good book, and not just because of my long-standing friendship with the author. There's science fiction in here, for Heaven's sake. Anyone who can get me reading, and even enjoying, that has got to be worth a wider audience.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

DEAD MEAT
 
by Bruce Hodder
 
At ten pm under a thin December moon, Declan O'Connor, a short, overweight Irish shift manager, arrived in a new BMW to interview candidates for a cleaning job at the meat factory. He was half an hour late, but as he was in charge, who was going to tell him that?
 
 
Two Polish men, one Lithuanian, one Latvian and one English man had been waiting silently in the canteen since half-past nine. Once O'Connor was in place in his office, with his usual cup of coffee and his biscuits, a woman in a tabard came into the canteen.
 
 
"New starters? Follow me."
 
 
The candidates were escorted to a meeting room, where they sat together around a big table talking quietly, mostly in Polish, but occasionally in broken English.
 
 
"What was your last job?"
 
 
"Nothing."
 
 
"You never work?"
 
 
"A day here, a day there."
 
 
"How long you been in England?"
 
 
"Six months."
 
 
The Latvian man, his blue eyes hollowed out by melancholy, told the Englishman, "Used to be jobs so easy to come by. Now nothing. So hard. Something very wrong."
 
 
The candidates were called one by one down the corridor to O'Connor's untidy office, and returned to the meeting room five minutes later.
 
 
"His accent so hard to understand," said the Latvian man. "Ireland is part of England? Same language?"
 
 
The English candidate went in last. O'Connor told him with a conspiratorial smile, "You're in a minority here. There are only two English people on the shop floor. And most of the managers, of course."
 
 
They had a cursory chat. O'Connor asked the Englishman about his experience, although the job had been advertised as "full training given." If he had known experience was a requirement, the Englishman would not have bothered to spend money he didn't have coming all the way across town on such a cold night.
 
 
Afterwards, he was sent back to the meeting room as the other candidates had been. They waited another five or six minutes for O'Connor to come in and announce three successful names out of the five. The chosen ones who would come back in tomorrow and start their training.
 
 
There was a complete absence of feeling in his voice or on his face as he read out the names. He might have been sorting fresh joints from rotten.
 
Leaving with the others, too tired to feel sorry for himself, the Englishman said, "Well, that was a waste of bloody time."
 
One of the successful candidates, walking behind him, laughed and said, "Can you smell the dead meat?"
 
 
He was right: the stench rising from the factory floor was thick and awful.
 
 
Pushing open another door marked "exit", the Englishman looked at his mobile and realised he had missed the last bus home. Perhaps understanding why he looked so annoyed, and perhaps not, one of the Polish men touched him on the shoulder.

"Hey, bro, you want a lift?" he said.

Outside the winter chill closed around them. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

BETHANY STIANA PATIENCE


Bio

Bethany (Bee) Stiana Patience

Performance poet, marketer, founder of ‘Run Your Tongue’ spoken word night, and Charles Bukowski devotee. Bee graduated with first-class honours in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of Nottingham. Following a brief period working as a poet in schools, she has since moved into the fast-paced world of marketing, where she’s able to use both the left ‘logical’ side of her brain and the right ‘creative’ side. Inspired by people and places, Bee’s work focuses heavily on the five senses, and she believes that every word counts. Her ultimate aim is for readers and listeners to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel her poetry. Bee also happens to be the 2012 Nottingham Poetry Society Slam first prize winner.

 

Poetry

 

Written in response to a poem called ‘Song for Bethany’ by the late Graham Joyce; a fabulous mentor, an incredible author, and an insanely missed friend.

 

for Graham

 

life tasted like candyfloss

rolling ourselves in rizlas of earth

finding feet through hopscotch

joining freckles like dot-to-dot across

shoulders and collar bones

imagining cartoons and unicorns

onto skin

 

pulling

 

thorns

and arrowheads and bluebirds from chests

 

stabbed breath

twenty-nine reckless

glasses of wine

then coming up Sunday

aching gazes down stranger’s spines

 

unmarking red lines

under empty cigarette packets

and double-decker wrappers

what do they know?

what do I know?

 

standing in love with another

not falling

promising not to let them hurt me

as much as the first

 

or the second

 

or the third

 

pulling thorns

and arrowheads and bluebirds from my chest

 

underneath my tongue

broken guitar strings

are buzzing

like heavy rain on the sunroof of a car

like standing on the edge of a platform when a train goes past

 

I’ll use lowercase for every single word

so that each letter knows their worth

 

 

and I will write

 

I will write

 

 I will write

 

I will write

 

and listen

to the sound of

 

rules

 

tearing

 

themselves

 

up

 

 

He Didn’t Want to be a Victim

 

What did you carry?

Anything –  flick knife, lock knife, butterfly knife

 

How can something so beautiful share its name with something so...

 

Why?

I didn’t want to be a victim. I’ve seen things, lost things.

The whisper of prison missed my ears beneath the shouting streets.

A slap on the wrist – I can handle that

then he’ll fall back into concrete embraces,

continue to subsist in a vulnerable bubble of kindred pretences

 

choosing violence, over conversation

 

Because they live in another post code?

Their skin’s a different colour to yours?

Or you can’t pronounce their surname?

 

I didn’t want to be a victim.

I didn’t want to be anybody’s victim.

We can’t harmonise with a handshake.

 

Peering from my back pocket, hidden in my jacket

 

the blade

boasts protection, saves face in front of connections

 

better to arm yourself with a weapon, denote intimidation

than be a victim.

Victim?

 

I didn’t want to be a victim.

I didn’t want to be anybody’s victim.

We can’t harmonise with a handshake.

 

And now all I see are these walls

eats and sleeps a metre away from his toilet –

it disgusts him. The drip

drip

drip

of the sink, syncs with the thud of his heart and the blink of his eye

    as he tries to forget

the encounter of my shank with their skin

 

puncturing layers of cotton, cells, tissue

flesh tearing

at the point of his knife                 

and the life that taints his iron hand

that can’t be washed away with peroxide.

 
 
Unnoticed, until

 

around half past seven, eight o clock

he’s there. Just there

 

A lost receipt for a packet of wine gums

an elderly leaf, shrivelled

beneath your foot

 

Look.

 

The stranger captured in the background of your photograph

 

Always there

wrapped in

damp, last month’s shirt, rolled in tobacco

 

as if he grew from a seed of ash in the air

you stare

at this 1900s circus beast

 

but it’s you who paints a smile on your face.

 

A naked head hides

under the peak of a cap

his hair lost

years ago

to a receding hairline

along with everything else.

 

Both hands placed below his chest

his fingertips kiss

earth’s cast offs trapped

under his nails

his hands offering

a bouquet of decaying fruit

 

‘Excuse me? I don’t suppose you’ve got forty-six pence?’

 

He glances at the change cradled in his palm

 

‘I’m just short and I need to get a bottle of pop?’

 

For a heartbeat, you panic

smell diesel, taste metal, hear train brakes

barbed wire pricks your spine

 

then

you think, he needs more than a bottle of pop

 

Two small spheres of black ice, too close together

look at you

wait

 

‘Uh no, sorry-’

 

Before you’ve finished, he’s turned away

as if swung by a gust of wind

zig-zagging through the blind

 

unnoticed, until

he asks them

 

He’s asked me three times – twice

in the same night, once

 

He’s there, always there. Just there

 

He mustn’t have remembered me.

I remember him.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Beatnik Is Back. Long Live The New Beatnik!

Today the New Beatnik launches.

Remember the old Beatnik? It ran for six years, until other commitments, which included a fortysomething university degree and an unfortunate energy-sapping involvement in politics, took me away from the work that really mattered. Without knowing it, I was also getting ill. I had a growth beginning on my lungs, and pneumonia. But I survived. Suffolk people are stubborn as old tree stumps.

Now the time has come to give Beatnik another go. But this time, or at least for now, it will be a little different. I won't be accepting unsolicited submissions for the time being. The volume of material I received before, once Beatnik was listed online (without my knowledge) as being open for contributions, was crushing. I loved reading the poems, and meeting, long distance, the poets, but I couldn't keep up.

As I say, things may change. I may even get a little helper in. But until then I'll be approaching the poets and asking them for work. With any luck one or two will even say yes.

An important point: the Beatnik reference in the site name doesn't mean that all the poetry is Beat or Beat-inflected. It's just a name, and an indication of my own favourite reading. But my taste in poetry is broad and the material you find here will reflect that.

If you want to correspond with Beatnik, feel free to email me at bfredface@gmail.com. I'd like to print your messages if possible to stimulate discussion among readers, so if you do write, but you'd rather it stayed private, please mark your email 'not for publication'. I want, also, your recommendations--poets I should be considering for publication here.

Currently I plan to post once or twice a month. The first featured poet, who I saw recently giving a stellar live reading, will be appearing soon. She may not be known by everybody, but I'm sure you'll like her work as much as I do when you read it. Keep an eye on the page, or like The New Beatnik on Facebook for updates.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

satnrose



TO RESPONSE THE RESPONSE 

the mile being level the sharp air
center where you burned the warm
my eye heard the sound of the thing
but only the sound my blade was
made of the thin blue ice mile under
the river it skates by pushing that
in the limit which it maintains and in
regard to response the response
to her whom the rhythm which is
the harmony is where am I where I
am of the feet which move aligning
me without any conscious thought
until I am in you thought simply that
if we make a quick survey of the
river the wood which it pulled
would hide the string which did not be-
long here together and with her eagerly
before me the pain would then
break and each step slide on down
the hill fast enough perhaps as if it
was possible and if I do not need
to go up to the top I just need to try 


================================    

BEFORE THE TRIAL


the city and you you are there so
your love is the you man and the you
corner of the street is defended you
use the come on to come in and let
someone far cross the time someday
just for the hell of it you lost me
on the stairs I hear the heart ex-
plaining the beat so many years if some-
one was you then you would know
it I was expecting you so use one in
a million what is true someday he’ll
someday do what can be done be-
fore the trial and then you will know
you know and I’ll make your bail   


=========================


THE LAST MESSAGE IN THE LAST BOTTLE 

being the last message in the last bottle
it was something that I had to
read when obtaining the good ones
ignore the lie of the differential it
is thought that we want entirety
entirely but if or when we get it then
we can’t handle it I was crossing
the garden to watch the fight of the
red ants with the white I was not
unaware of the similarities between
ants and men but for honest sweat
and the promise of the brown earth
you see with one eye more than
half of what you see with two and so
what is chosen is as good as the
land can produce it is no empty small
thing but as big as anything can be big
hard to imagine I listened to the 
strange purple flowers who talked to
me I opened the door to the NO
of empty thought but surely no matter
how elevated you get you have
to come down sometime so I be-
lieved in self-reliance but you know at
some point we all need help when
the hot day deserted me I was left in
the cold to find my own way over
the fences topped with broken glass
and barbed wire but the top
of the mountain was up there where I was
going the boundaries made no difference
so ignorant of any aftereffect
I had to steal the where from the
nowhere to wake up and fly right but
moved by the mercy of the salt
like a child who has it easy easy the gun
held to your head and the well full
of your own blood and the so-called
epiphany you got wasn’t what you
hoped for so it’s back to the factory
for you you puppet and next time
you’d better have the proper respect


=============================  


THE DRAGONS CAME ROARING OUT 


she provided the liquor
and the fire pedestrian lit the room the roses
danced on the table
and the cat insulted me all night which I thought
was hilarious and the
cat just got pisseder and pisseder and so in the
morning the landlord
kicked me out on the street someone came up
to me and spoke a
Spanish I could almost understand and I just kept
nodding and they
went away shaking their three heads the mountains
separated in front
of me so I dragged my carcass up thru the canyons
and sheets of ice
glared back at me a dog wanted to bite at me but it
had a steel wire muzzle
so I grabbed at him and his walker ran away
with the bitch so I
went to ground but didn’t have the technical skill
to put the slug in the slot
and the brakeman pushed me through and
out on the tournament
floor the dragons came roaring out and I had
to step into the belly
to get to where I was going I looked at all this
as if I were my own
ghost and I guess I should have been frightened
but if you must know
to tell the truth I just didn’t know who I was

====================  


THE MYTH OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS 

the achievement of wealth is a chimera
you can take the appropriate
expedient and clip its wings whether
grasping at the best straw is a
wise course of action or letting the
mystery play play itself out we do
what little we can to lighten the
damage if the process can go or be
reversed you have to have known
that something would change the
cost is not large in the short-term
but in the long term brutal money
wasted is only time so someone
stabilizes while someone else tries to
get rich quick the rule of law
and legislation won’t stop the process
of  erosion but only slow it down
or else speed it up so in light of the
present condition we can either
try to sit stock still or run it into the
ground cause either way y’know
absolute power stupefies absolutely

=====================


Bio: "satnrose is a well-known antiquarian bookseller, and formerly a not-so-secret messenger in the innermost depths of Capitol Hill and K Street. He has been published in a number of literary magazines, but since his reincarnation as 'satnrose' a couple of years ago, he has been published in EVERGREEN REVIEW, ICONOCLAST, DANSE MACABRE, COUNTEREXAMPLE POETICS, wtf.pwm,  OYSTERS & CHOCOLATE, APPARATUS, GLOOM CUPBOARD, ESCAPE INTO LIFE, MAD SWIRL, METAZEN, THE NOVEMBER 3RD CLUB, STRAY BRANCH, THE CITRON REVIEW, THE COPPERFIELD REVIEW, THE HELL GATE REVIEW, THE BLUE JEW YORKER, MASTODON DENTIST, FULL OF CROW, FORGE,  ROSE & THORN JOURNAL, THE MAYNARD, NEFARIOUS BALLERINA, COUNTERPUNCH, deadpaper, theviewfromhere, MAVERICK, CALLIOPE NERVE, THE BATTERED SUITCASE, PSYCHIC MEATLOAF, HAWK & WHIPPORWILL, etc., etc."