Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

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Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by dedalus » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:26 pm

London/ Haymarket … D4, G(2)

My dear, but you look so ravishing!
Let me take your arm and lead you along
to very nice seats in the Upper Circle;
don’t forget light smiles, bobs along the way,
to useful acquaintances, to half-known faces.
They’ll all smile and nod, most politely,
all very well dressed as indeed are we.

The lights go down, the hubbub recedes,
and so the play begins. It’s a modern piece,
quite well-reviewed in the Guardian.
But I must say the opening leaves me cold
and the necessary if faint little flicker
of enthusiasm totally eludes me. I sleep.
and my dear companion controls my snores.

She’s such a lovely gel, I really must think
about marrying her and put an end
to this endless round of picture galleries and theatres
which is all very well for a polite how-de-doo,
but seems to be carried too far, painfully far,
to such inordinate lengths after one has met
the people one expects to meet, and rather thinks
all social business has been completed.

I rouse myself for the half-time break, bright-eyed,
trotting out eagerly for a well-earned gin and tonic,
and there we run into expected couples around the bar
where the “girls” twitter on about the play, bless their little hearts,
while we men shout and bray at one another for a bit,
very open and hearty, before breaking into twos and threes
to discuss the movements of imaginary money, a place
where our thoughts are endlessly, greedily applied.

The bell. Dingaling. We have to go back for the second act.
We depart from the bar reluctantly, almost peevishly, resume
our unwelcome seats, assume postures of the least discomfort,
wait for the damn thing to be over. Living in London, old boy,
can be such a facking bore!! I know, we all know, what can you do?
You can’t stay at home and just stare at the telly; well, you can,
but you need to marry into the county or the aristocracy first,
and you don’t have much time as the money comes roaring in
because the girls are fickle and you’ll burn out before you’re 25.

Thoughts like these, so carefully unspoken, dart through our minds
as our eyes flick over the girls of our colleagues and rivals,
nakedly measuring and calculating: all of us are bothered by the fact
that the sweetest, prettiest girl, the most animated of the bunch,
hangs on the arm of Benjamin Howard, an out-and-out raging queer.
He leers back at us, dead-eyed, his fat wet lips opening and closing,
and dares us to say a word. Of course he will marry her, it’s a done deal,
and will thereby destroy all her dreams and aspirations. As if he cares.
His career will prosper. Now, this very moment, in a time before it happens,
we look at her without pity, we have lost all pity, we look at her with shame.

Boys can be cruel, but guilt is never far away. My own date, Jemima,
is pretty, petite and jolly, brought up on the family estates in Norfolk
with a wide-ranging godawful vocabulary she learned from the locals,
but I rather like her. I’ve kissed her once or twice but when I get too romantic
she brushes me aside like a nuzzling sheep. “O, would you leave off, please!”
she says, so I see little future in the relationship. Well, one needs to practice.
I see her into a taxi and hand the amused and leering driver a fiver, saying
“Please see she gets home safely.” The driver pockets the note, grins lewdly,
says, “Outta yer class. Go home, sonny.” Anger gives way to consideration.
How will I get home? Look around, the others have gone, no friends to be seen:
What have I got? Six Pounds and 25 … 32 Pence. Oh, dear. Never mind.

A black taxi glides up slow beside me: Jump in, says a voice, get in.
I get in. “Had a good night?” says the driver. “Not really,” says I,
“not if you want to be honest.” “Ugm”, says the driver and smoothly pulls away,
with me tucked inside. I tell him politely where I want to go, he drives.
I’m sitting there in the back seat thinking what the hell was I doing this night
when the driver says, “you should be ashamed of yourself” and I think “What?”
and then I say “What?” and he says, “just have a good long look at yourself”.
“The fuck you think you’re on about? Drive yer fuckin taxi, will yeh?”
“I will, of course. But you’re a total disgrace all the same.”

Long, dangerous, brooding silence.
Two miles, three miles, nasty orange sodium lights.
“Why am I a fuckin disgrace, then?” says I,
not being able to stop myself, a failing since childhood.
He says nothing for a moment, then, “You know yerself.”
“What do I know, what in the name of God are you on about?”
He pulls over to the side of the road, yanks on the handbrake.
“Get out,” he says. “Wha? I’ll fuckin report you. I have your number!”
“Get out. I won’t be driving away. Go on. Step out of the car.”
I was feeling a little afraid now. A fight, OK, but did he have a gun?
What could I do? I stepped out. We were on a piece of waste ground
with some kind of broken-down factory behind us, another legacy
of the Tories and the one-off, indescribable Maggie T.

“What do you want from me?” says I, looking at him straight,
thinking it’s not often you look at and acknowledge any taxi driver
these days, not unless he stops the car and scares the fuck out of you.
“I want you to hit me,“ he said, “I want you to hit me so hard you draw blood.”
I just stared at him. I just couldn’t get my head around it.
“You … you want me to what? Hit you, draw blood? Are you nuts or what?”
“That’s what you’ll do, or we’ll move no further,” he said, very calm and cool.
“But I don’t want to hit you, for God’s sake, I don’t even know you!”
“O, you know me,” says he, “you know me well, you’ve just forgotten me”.
I stared at him, every feature on his face, there was nothing I could remember.
“Come on, hit me boy, or you’ll never go home!” I moved towards him.
I raised my fist half-way and dropped it. There was no way I could hit him.

There were some tears involved, but I can’t remember what happened next.
He must have taken me home because that’s where I woke up, shivering,
alone in the morning, with my phone and keys and Six Pounds and 32 Pence.
I broke up with Jemima. That would have happened anyway, never mind
the rest of the message, don’t think I didn’t know it. But what’s happening here?
My Dada could never have known that taxi driver, I wish now I’d really listened.

But you don’t; you turn aside from dreams and intuitions
whenever they get in the way, you “grow up”, you ignore them,
you gallop off instead to do a host of silly things, through bravado,
self-interest, the illusion of profits soon to come: the very things
I had learned in London. And so I made a right little cock-up of my life
and could not face the staid and clear-eyed men, my uncles and cousins,
nor their forgiving soft-eyed ladies; it was not that they were frowning
or censorious, not that they were unaware of the myriad charms of the city,
but that they were strong in themselves, and had no need for it.

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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by coffeedodger » Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:36 am

Seeing as no one has commented on this, I will say something. I'm not picking on you specifically for criticism, but trying to stop your writing disappearing without a trace. On the other hand I can only tell it as I see it.

Like your war diaries extracts , this is a short story in drag. Again I found it sufficiently engaging to read it all the way through twice, but I am left feeling confused about who or what the main character is trying to express or represent. He seems initially like an archytypal Tory toff, but then becomes a champagne socialist deriding the upper classes, then a sociliast Thatcher hater, and then a sociopath! It is all rather bizzare, the dialogue is littered with straightforward profanity rather than poetry, the incident with the taxi driver is something I can't relate to on any level. The ending does have a much more mellow and contemplative feel which I like a lot and can see some allusions to class sytems, the value of wealth compared to the value of decency, the importance of need compared to the irrelevance of desire and so on, but struggle to be touched by it because the 'voice' in the poem comes across as a contradictory foul mouthed twerp for the most part.

Clearly I'm missing the point, but that may be because there are so many points, or perhaps no point. Given the sheer length and breadth of the characterisation and 'plot' it is hard to tell. I also think the title is rather pretentious and doesn't help my mood when trying to extract some meaning from what follows.

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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by clarabow » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:35 am

I'm off to catch a plane so haven't much time. An entertaining write, and the character you present - well - such do exist and most unattractive people they are. In England we call them the ruling class and I have met a few in my time. But they are still a minority but no harm holding up a mirror to them. I think this is more prose than poetry but there is a nice meter going on in parts. Sorry I haven't got time for a more indepth comment - maybe when I return.

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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by dedalus » Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:32 pm

I reply to thank you both (safe trip clarabow). Thank you for reading it through, shall we say? The "bad" language is used colloquially, simply as a pattern of the way some people speak, and not for emphasis or effect. The narrator is a foul-mouthed twerp (well, not really, not with the taxi driver ... it's more a sort of patois) a Tory toff, a champagne socialist, if never quite a sociopath. He's confused. He's a guy with false aspirations, a would-be Hooray Henry, a fellow who thinks he's come a long way from humble (possibly Irish) beginnings, but has only managed to move away from a world where human relationships still matter to a glittering existence where the feelings of others are held to little account, as in the marriage-market scenario. The taxi driver is the Deus ex machina, the interloper from the other (left-behind and discarded) world who asks the narrator to strike him and draw blood, to physically renounce his background. And he can't.

I dare say it's all very clumsily done, more prose than poem, but that was the general idea.


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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by coffeedodger » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:42 pm

I certainly think there are interesting aspects to your stories/poems Brendan otherwise I wouldn't bother reading them! :)

It isn't so much clumsy as you are clearly an intelligent articulate chap, but in my opinion, it is in need of reigning back on the dialogue and some of the other elements which take it out of poetry and also results in something which feels padded out. It's the old cliche that sometimes 'less is more' and I think you could convey a stronger message by condensing the narrative somewhat.

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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by dedalus » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:55 am

Fair point, me oul' dodger. Perhaps I shouldn't post so quickly/ enthusiastically ... allow the filters to work?


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Re: Cityscape, Soundcheck, Alpha Gamma ii

Post by coffeedodger » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:28 am

Spot on B.!

If you are planning a six course meal you should bear in mind that:

A) Your guests are unlikely to be able to digest such substantial portions on a daily or even weekly basis without becoming constipated, no matter how much they may enjoy some of the individual courses.
B) Although your food is a diverse range of the sweet and savoury it is unlikely that many people will be partial to beef meringues coated in honey and brown sauce as an appetiser.
C) Taste and tastebuds wait for no man.
D) Leave the front door unlocked and take note of the subtle gestures and glances towards the window which your guests employ as a non-confronatational communication that the disco is too loud, the time is getting on and they really must be going now. The cheese board will keep for another day!


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