Phil Mader: Three Poems and Four Stories

*

Rue De Chine : film noir

Rue de Chine.
You’re like hard candy. I lick you everywhere with the promise of… .
But inside there is nothing, just a bitter hollow
The empty malicious space between two boxes

I fashion you like a sculptor into your ideal Grecian form. I leave out  blemishes, the Queen Bee, the vicious wasp stings, the black witch’s spell. I sanitize you; leave you white-washed.

And now you are beautiful and desirable again.
There are Mondays I wake up
angry
sad
crazy
jocular
despairing
This is not a time for reflection nor kindness

This is a time for cannibalism…for betrayal …for treachery
Oh Moshe, Christ, Glinda The Good Witch, Sao Jao Baptista
Save me.
Upstairs, a tintinnabulation of tiny mocking hammers tapping away.
First they came for the Communists , and I did nothing
Then they came for Saint Paul deFelice of the Holy Cannabis Mission
And I did nothing.
All hard leather boots and snarling orders
Writing in lilliputian print in their shiny rule books.
Timidly I inquire if they’re writing the history of sperm.
I get no answer.

Rue de la Chine.
You are like hard candy.  I lick you everywhere with the promise of…. .
You are the black widow who craves for heat and when it comes
Burns down my forest.

So badly do I need to love you.
So often you won’t let me.
Your roadblocks are so carefully planned.

Don’t you see, he says, so off-target, you’re trying to
Break a butterfly on a wheel.

Today I feel like damaged goods
Wistfully wandering an abandoned logging road

Above, leaden clouds plod along, like me.

Rocking Johnny’s Café

At the bar, a man with long white blonde hair

Like a woman’s, smiles at me. Next to him the real item

Straight long shimmering raven hair, luminous silk red blouse,

Red tulip lips, and hard blue eyes.

“So, you’re a dealer” she whispers dangerously
In my ear.

Downstairs, the urinal flows
The colour of dish soap.
The smallish room
A haze of herbal smoke.
I puff and piss, in a daze.

Suddenly a gun in my ribs
“What’s the name of this street”, she commands.
Rue de la Chine, I croak.
It was her, and that’s how we met.

*

Cyclopean

Ugly gargoyles of televised cyclopean power
Monstrous showing off of everything big
The soul crushing under their foul fraudulent weight
I have turned my attention to tiny drip drops
At the kitchen tap
Drip, drip, drip, drip.
And my heart soothes with these.
Monstrous scenes of the artistry of
War and suicidal straightjackets
And bystanders now stinking tattered corpses.
And my heart sinks with these.
Today my gaze is fixed on the soiled ring
At the bottom of my toilet
And I find so much solace in this simple thing.
Global warming and my town still not
Putting up a bike rack for me.
Only my fascination at my cat’s fluffy hair balls
Littering the carpet
Stops my teeth from drawing the lip’s blood

I have sworn myself to smallness
The tinier the better, but first
Like a stumbling acrobat in mid air, I must find my footing,
I must divine extravagant blinders as thick, as bloated, as puffed up
As my consumer-evangelizing killers who try to pass as riding pals
Masquerading their rapacious cunning colossal Trojan horses
Sniffing at the miniature bluebells that carpet
And circle my so slight so restless so assailable sanctuary.

*

Carrying the Saddle

He was feeling kind of churchy but what came out was something
altogether different.

“Good evening peepers, prowlers,  pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks  and pimps”

Thankfully, he was talking into a mirror.  He knew it was hopeless. He was  diving freefall into the abyss.  Meanwhile he kept rowing and rowing until  God broke one of his oars.  In his youth he’d wanted to turn everything upside down to see what lay beneath. He believed mankind was so webbed, so horribly regimented, that no spring-cleaning was possible,  everything had to be burned, blown  to bits, in order to  start  afresh . The world didn’t accept him and he couldn’t accept the world.

She came out of the bedroom, half naked, as he undid his tie.

“Well?” she half asked, half begged.

“Sometimes it’s better to carry the saddle than to ride” , he replied, and in the privacy of his mind  reminded himself that sex, though it may be great stuff, like chocolate  sundaes, there comes a time  when you would rather cut your  throat.

She returned to the bedroom and slammed the door.

He tried to wipe out the memory of a comment in a review of his latest book – ‘the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell’.

And then his mind returned to her, and how at one time he swore to himself she deserved a pedicure every single day of the week from him for how she had saved him from the terrors of oblivion.  She’d been a jaw-dropping blonde with doctorate initials attached to her name., a woman of steel and panther- like  grace, fetching enough  to  make a bishop kick a hole in a  stained-glass window,
But now, try as hard as he could, it was finished and he knew it , and she knew it. By now she was no doubt turning in bed incandescent with rage.

Her relatives did not help to patch up the mess they were in. As far as he was concerned they were a bunch of hateful inbreds.
Her father was a self-aggrandizing, self-delusional jackass, an attention hound and a liar, to whom he felt no loyalty whatsoever.

And now the silence was thunderous.  It ricocheted off the walls into the
recesses of his brain. He needed to get out from under.

His book had done him in permanently.  In the face of evil , he had taken a stand, had shown his fellow citizens how the world around them was as crooked as a hockey stick; how certain amongst them robbed by design , not with a six-gun but with the stroke of a fountain pen, and now, having denounced the government, he’d hung a tombstone around his neck.

He expected her to come out again and do the new nightie test drive, but , on the contrary, nothing seemed to move.  He looked himself in the mirror again and saw a greying, unhappy middle aged writer-investigator and he asked himself how on earth he’d got to this place.

Suddenly the cries of a small crowd smashed through the silence at the bathroom door, which he’d kept wide open. Familiar faces grinned at him, while his cat wailed in the background. And then some voice broke into  the Happy Birthday song, quickly joined by a bunch of people crowing away and sealing off the bathroom door with their mass. A somewhat formidable cake then struggled to get closer, with candles as bright as oil fires, jabbing gracefully at the air, now filling the bathroom entrance. Someone cracked a joke and a howl of laughter exploded inside the crowded hallway.
It was his 60th birthday.  They all went out into the living room from where his wife was calling.  And there he opened his gifts while his wife put her arm around him.
Perhaps it was not over. Now more than ever he needed to find new eyes to save him from what was wasting so joylessly, so inevitably, around him.

*

Jack Shithole

I met Jack Shithole at the Royal Pub in Nelson B.C. . I was a newcomer and didn’t know his name at the time, and when he shook my hand and said,” Jack Shithole”, I  was shocked.   He assured me it was an old Dorset English name.  Still, I laughed and he punched me in the stomach.

“Did you ever try changing it”, I asked, coughing and sputtering as I limped in my effort to stand.
Oh no, I actually like the name, Jack insisted.
Are you kidding me?, I weighed in innocently. That’s when I felt another fist devastate my gut.  As I grabbed the counter top, heaving and panting, to pull myself up from the floor, Jack inquired, “what’s wrong with it”?
Well, I said, hesitating and in pain, it’s …well, you know …shithole.
Sooooo?,  inquired Jack.
Still heaving and panting, I spouted, well, “hole” is not a problem, Jack.  Actually , “hole” has a kind of scientific, even metaphysical quality about it.
Sooooo? shot back , Jack.
It’s the shit part, Jack. That’s what it is, I said nervously.  The shit part.
Just as Jack was pulling back his fist to land another , a gorgeous ballerina-like woman with hair down to her butt slid seductively towards us and blurted out, “Jack Shithole”…godammit… I haven’t seen you in years….where you been hiding? “ And proceeded to hug Jack as though he were her long lost brother.
At that very moment, the bar phone rang and the waiter answered and then cried out to the room, “Is Jack Shithole around?”, and when Jack excused himself and headed for the phone, the waiter went back to work as though nothing unusual at all had happened. In fact, nowhere in the lounge did it seem to cause a stir. People just continued chatting.
Stunned and shaken, my legs trembled all the way to a seat in the corner deciding some conspiracy had long been carefully hatched to defeat me. In a trance of total incredulity, I ordered a beer and listened to the music wailing from the speakers …something about a woman and her lost love.
A very attractive woman interrupted my paralysis by asking if she might sit down at the table. I noticed it was the last chair available in the lounge and acquiesced thoughtlessly in a hanging back kind of way.
An infinity of silence seemed to endure before I ended it.
Hi, my name’s Bill.
Mine’s Alice Shithole. I’m Jack’s sister, she said, pointing to him.

As I peaked in terror at the bar, I could see Jack’s beady eyes scrutinizing, scouring me,  like  prison lights.

*

Jerome Kern, Preparation P. And Mr. Five Percent

“Lyricist Hammerstein said of music  composer Jerome Kern, ….he devoted all his lifetime to giving the world something it needs and knows it needs-beauty.” Are you kidding. …look..here Hammerstein, we’ve been surviving well enough with unadulterated Cordon Bleu shit for years now..and we’re still breathing….we’re still kicking.  What were you thinking?  We like shit.  We read shit.  We sing shit. We publish shit. We make films out of shit. We give shit awards. We stroke shit. We hug shit.  Please..please..leave our shit alone!  You see..we know there was once something called beauty…but we can’t relate to it anymore. …but shit, give us shit any time. Shovel it… truck it…railroad it…call it the Alberta Tar Sands. We welcome it with open arms.”
Are you finished, I asked?
Yes…and she lumbered off the bare stage.
Was anybody listening?
No.
But I was mistaken. Off to the east side of the stage was a man wearing a pork pie hat,  coke bottle glasses and an aging crumpled tweed jacket covered with various straps that held up a canteen and field glasses, and even a thermos bottle.
Don’t you know me?
No, we replied. Should we?
I’m the  inventor of Preparation P, a formula that helps to shrink inept, obnoxious politicians. What you said, I liked.  I have a daughter about your age, he said, continuing. I would love for her to get married, but she’s more attracted to bridges than men.
And he carried on. The world’s unfair it is. In this world, an ugly horse that wins the race is praised for its good looks. The world’s unfair.  I should have moved to a really small town except there when you’re married and divorced three times, you end up still having the same in laws.  .

Two weeks ago I was arrested by a policeman. And he said he was arresting me..not for j-walking, not for stealing ,  not for committing an act of violence, but for decaying…you understand..for decaying.   Nevertheless, when I’m dead and gone, I’m certain I’ll be remembered and memorialized, for the way I tied my shoe laces; the way I played lotto 649, the way I licked at the foam on my beer.

We looked at each other with incredulity.  We bid the gentleman good bye,  and walked on to the park entrance.  There a raving obese woman with too much make up and a vast pile of curls on her head approached me and asked, “Are you Mr. Five Percent? I’m waiting for Mr. Five Percent”.
No, I’m not Mr. Five Percent. My name is Prendergast, Rudy Prendergast.
She looked at me through her curls suspiciously and then launched, “ You understand… no midnight cowboys, hotel wankers, lonely hearts clubbers, narcissists, secret marrieds or whack jobs .I am polyamorous but this does not mean I take on all comers.”
Look I told you I’m not Mr. Five Percent. She looked terribly disappointed so I gave her a bit of advice.  My advice to you is never flinch, never weary, never despair. and never wear canvas underwear.
She stared at me wide-eyed at a complete loss.
We made our way to our car in the steaming parking lot. In the background, we heard her burst into a towering squeal. She must have found her Mr. Five Percent.

*

Scarlette

This happened many, many years ago. She did time in prison after pushing her husband into a plant industrial pasta machine for cheating on her. Inside prison she dominated other women and owned a few. She took after her mother for boldness and defiance. Her mother would get into horrible fights with her father. The mother instead of “diffusing” the situation would “infuse” the matter by saying things to her  father that would just make him even more angry, so needless to say the end result would be her getting beaten severely, and she would end up in the hospital.
Her name was Scarlette. When she got out she turned to prostitution and in time became a saintly one, helping other women of the street get through rough spots in their lives. One day she disappeared, and was later found dead in an alley. The other women suspected murder but the police ruled it suicide. The other women occupied a Vancouver Eastside police station demanding to speak to the Police Chief.  In answer, three were arrested and charged with assault for trespassing.
But others claimed her body was falsely identified. The coroner estimated the found woman’s age at death to have been between 50 and 65 yrs. old.  He was shocked to discover that she was only 34. These others simply said the real Scarlette had disappeared into an unknown future.
One woman later brandished a received letter from a Congolese woman in Brazzaville which claimed Scarlette had won a lottery and left for the Congo where she started a river touring company helping boaters get through crocodile infested rivers alive, but that she herself was ripped out of her kayak and swallowed for breakfast by a famished crocodile.
Another claimed she had information that Scarlette left for the mountains of Vietnam where she married a warlord who was famous for inventing a torture contraption that drilled a steel nail through the victim’s ear,  a device he used to force villagers and wealthy landlords to fund his forces.

Well, anyhow she was gone now. And the women recalled her prowess as a story-teller, her stories of antique accounts of the Irish Cenél Conaill king who mated with a mare, had it ritually slaughtered and boiled, and then bathed in its broth while his subjects drank from the bath. And she’d tell stories about her numerous marriages, many lasting only a year at most.  And how it sometimes took her years to get possession of her children with former husbands; so that a child would arrive at the dinner table for the first time and the other children would ask, “who are you?”.  And then she would reach for the pain killers but then would realize it wasn’t a bodily pain she was trying to quell but rather a torment of the mind.

The way the controversy ended was that someone met Scarlette… yes in Vancouver. Scarlette was alive. She’d changed her name and others gave her the nickname, “Baby”. The person was warned never to tell or else they would be hunted down.
Why “Baby” you ask?  She would sometimes show up at Wreck Beach lying in the sun wearing only diapers.

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