Excited to share a poem from EX-CETERA (yes, I know, the ‘EX-cited’ pun is right there :’)), published last week at one of my favourite online mags, Anthropocene. They publish insanely good poetry by some top poets, so I’m over the moon that Charlie gave this poem such a great home.
In this poem, Dolly and Man (whose doomed-romance story I tell from start to finish in EX-CETERA) go out for dinner while hating each other, then they have make-up sex on the night bus home. AJ Stanton described this poem better than I can myself: ‘Capture[s] that feeling of a Jenga pile of emotions that no one wants to touch because it might topple if you do.’
I had fun writing this poem. I’ve been writing so much neat, controlled, meticulously crafted poetry over the past year or so – lots of metaphor-heavy couplets that I’ve spent weeks or months polishing. But I missed the raw don’t-give-a-fuck quality of my HoPC-style writing so wanted to see if I could still write punctuationless-manic-stream-of-consciousness poems while clean and sober, throwing formal/meterical constraints out of the window. I wrote this one, and enjoyed it so much that I then edited another EX-CETERA poem ‘God, They Look Happy’ into this same punctuationless style because it worked really well in relaying a chaotic incident.
Around that time I was also thinking about my dad’s stories from when he worked in sex shops in Soho in the 80s, and my own memories of grafting for hard cash in Soho’s nightclubs when I was a student. So this poem turned out to be a postcard of the sleaze of London’s West End where I’ve spent so many nights in the gutter and/or dancing till dawn with £20 notes stuffed in my bra.
I’d also been writing poems that are too long to be published, so I really sat down to write this with the sole aim of capturing a whole night out on one side of A4!
This poem, particularly the final lines, signals a change of direction in EX-CETERA, another devastating twist in Dolly and Man’s relationship. But you’ll have to read the whole book to find out how/why. Enjoy! xx
“Breaking Up” in Soho
another strange night in purgatory
our faces torn between the heaven
of tipsy candlelight & the hell
of gaudy neon signs that curious
liminal state in which we existed
in love out of love somewhere
between agony & pain we were
really angry at each other for reasons
out of reach to me now I’d probably
done something stupid or had too many
feelings again that you couldn’t take
but the safety of our cloistered sanctuary
in this cosy little restaurant we had
never been to before & the warmth
& comfort afforded by the melting
wax pillar that stood coyly between us
as we sat in quiet contentment falling
silently into respect for each other again
our bellies full of risotto & steak & rioja
neither of us daring to say
anything to disrupt this
rare piece of peace
to make the first move to utter
I think we should call it a day
look this has been fun but
the rhythmic blinking of electric
signs on the other side of the window
the neon letters in brash colours
screaming 18+ touting London’s finest
mags + dvds + toys + girls girls girls
& MASSAGE with a short-circuited M
the way the fluorescence fell on your face
(I could’ve screamed you looked like a saint)
dissipated my rage our rage it made us
wicked & in the mood for sabotage
but in a different way so we went to
a peep show instead & laughed our heads
right back & fucked on the night bus home
backseats top deck & you asked me to
marry you the next day & I said no
because I loved you so much
I told you that you deserved better
than me but now I’m not sure
if I really truly meant it
because in the end
you turned out
to be a prick.
That was lush.
It’s a smasher!