Monday 4 November 2019

Gleeful Futility

When the man awoke he felt mostly OK, but then he remembered that he hadn't felt OK yesterday and it seemed inconsistent not to continue with his malaise. It was Tuesday morning and his landlady had scheduled a flat inspection. He'd arranged the day off work and told his landlady that his girlfriend was working. He was reluctant to admit that she'd left him three months ago. There were various reasons for this concealment. It was a private let and the lease was in her name for one. Mere practical details, excuses. Perhaps he just wasn't ready to admit to himself that the relationship was over.
He studied his reflection in the mirror, recalling the admonishments of a school friend who'd advised him that he didn't have very good posture. The friend had even gone so far as to draw a diagram to indicate how slouched his shoulders were when he was standing stationary. He looked utterly futile, he supposed. Not the posture of a reliable tenant he was sure the landlady would duly deduce. And then there were the proliferation of empty bourbon bottles that might worry her as well. He really should have recycled those already goddamnit, what a dumbass.
It was too late to rush out to the bottle bin now; the landlady might encounter him on the stairwell and would inevitably be bemused by his harried, flustered state. No, best to hide them. But where? And what if she perchance in the course of her inspection opened a cupboard and found a neat array of empty bourbon bottles. Such an occurrence would surely worry her. But would the inspection really be so goddamn thorough? Surely not. A quick glimpse at the abode to ensure it hadn't reached a state of complete ruin, and then she'd fuck off. Maybe some small talk about the absent girlfriend. He wasn't a terribly convincing liar though, he feared.

Why is Losing Something so Much Harder than Acquiring it

A group of American tourists happened upon yours truly as I was endeavouring to change my trousers in the arboretum, not without some haste. It was circa 5pm, the sun low in the sky. There were five more hours remaining before we had to depart for the station.
"It's a case of killing time now, ambling and such," I blithely informed the Americans. They were in their twenties, seemed brash in a way which made me sort of uncomfortable.
"Those dusk ambling hours are when a real animal kingdom mentality can emerge," one of them observed with a hint of sadistic pleasure. I was still wearing suspenders fashioned out of toilet paper which somehow seemed to bear testament to this.

In the restaurant I ordered a vegetable soup. The guy beside me ordered a coke and sunglasses, and I interrupted to indicate that I wanted the same as well. I felt irked, and I smiled in such a way that it might seem polite or arrogant. Passive-aggressively polite. I was wearing sunglasses already but they brought me another pair anyway.

Friday 17 November 2017

End Credits

As my parents'
black labrador
dances to Surfin' Bird
I think we
can safely roll the end
credits to my life

He's really going for it
really shaking his ass
It's really quite remarkable

Snow That Hasn't Happened Yet

Hit the mattress with the wooden sword
Pour water on the mattress
This isn't a Haruki Murukami novel
These aren't our real lives
Snow that hasn't happened yet
The prisoners were exceedingly polite
I smiled or was it a wince
Put down that Haruki Murukami novel
Someone might see you
Snow will happen
I winced or was it a smile
'I was an infinitely dense dot'
wrote Mark Leyner
& I felt compelled to agree
even if I did secretly prefer to
consider myself a nebulous
cluster of sunflower
& then Jonathan Franzen gave
me a blowjob
which was jolly decent of him
I'm not certain if my gratitude for
said act will ever expire
It's not as if Haruki Murukami
has ever performed a sex act
upon yours truly
Neither has Jonathan Franzen
for that matter;
I invented the whole episode
in a bid to impress you
even though I feared it wouldn't work
Nothing I do or say impresses
you anymore
does it?

Lines Composed in Hollyrood Park on an Indian Summer's Day

Subliminal holistic dosages of poetry
are transmitted via electronic algorithmic feed
Your bouquet blocks my view
of the TV screen
It's difficult
to look urbane whilst carrying a plastic tub of Coleslaw down Leith Walk
at night
But I manage

Dismantle your marquees
I plead, as the breeze picks up
             as a dog swishes its tail
             in the sun

Sunday 2 July 2017


I won't pretend that living in this crawlspace doesn't have its disadvantages, but at the very least I'm insulated. Sometimes something seeps through, something warm, or something cold. At this point my skin is very sensitive. Hell, it was always sensitive, that's partly the reason I'm down here to begin with. I remember the sky, clouds. Parks, trees. I miss those things sometimes, aye. Cold wine and my favourite music. Aye, sometimes I feel tempted to return. I could live on a remote island or alone on a research station in Alaska. But could I, realistically? At times like this present moment, notions such as these strike me as being utterly preposterous. My crawlspace has warm and cold and a few different colours. The less things you have the more you appreciate what you've got.

A layer of sediment appeared, that's new! Oh well then. Imagine me wide-eyed. Grime on my face. A rueful grin. Should I add oregano to my Bloody Mary? These are the queries that one needs to address, quite swiftly. If you're quite ready to advise.

Hostage Situation

Act drunk – take the matches – dad knows – the lassies regarded him oddly and walked away – grinning, clearing his throat – odd looking in his oversized leather jacket and blue cap – he didn't want that we go to his house – the night was so fucking dark there was a purity to it – an unusual friendship... that's an understatement, I was a fucking hostage.

Gesticulating wildly in a bid to explain.

Later he was morose – gaunt – withdrawn.

An overcast day – laughing at drivers – this was during the early days of the hostage situation.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Ficción #2

It wasn't until I was lower down. That was when the reality of my error began to dawn on me. I remember the distant boom of a drum and the sense that the colours were draining out of everything. Crowds singing in the distance. And that feeling of desaturation. The skies as white as a kitchen. The sheer futility of it all — I barely had the wherewithal to think anymore. A terrible fog had descended.

A dressing table painted white, the paint job crude and hurried. Lit candles overflowing with cascades of hardened wax. The window permits a view of an orange streetlight, its glow reflected in a shallow rain puddle. Persistent drizzle.

A girl is hunched at the table. She is Slavic in appearance. Her posture is appalling. Her skin is wet with oils applied to treat her moderate acne. She is wearing a red fleece sweater and black leggings. Her frizzy hair is tied into a severe bun. Her facial expression is somehow both weary and anxious. The tabletop is cluttered with small glass cosmetic jars which she frequently upsets the balance of with her clumsy, hurried, jolting movements.

An elderly man sits on the bed behind her. He seethes with lethargic melancholy. His palms are resting on his thighs and his damp eyes gaze out the window at the pale grey sky. He is dressed in slacks, an oversized t-shirt, and a cardigan, all in navy blue. His feet are bare. He purses his lips and exhales with a puffing sound several times, for no discernible reason. The room is silent aside from the distant gurgle of a boiler or some other plumbing deep within the house.

Lithuania in autumn. A depressed looking woman drifts past on rollerskates. The sky is white. The street is illuminated by orange streetlights even though it's the middle of the day. The light is reflected in a shallow rain puddle.

A listless woman in her 30s is teaching a high school mathematics class. It's a snowy day. She's moderately attractive but this is dampened by her 'frumpy' dress sense. She recently began dating a poet who is slightly younger than she is. She is constantly late for their dates, a trait which he strives to reassure himself is merely one of her endearing little foibles. He chuckles ruefully to himself and takes a sip of red wine. He's sitting at a rustic wooden kitchen table with cheap plastic tablecloth in a red and white checked pattern. The dining chair he sits upon feels somewhat small and flimsy for his overbearing, lurching frame. It contributes perfectly to the sense of alienness and existential discomfort he experiences on a daily basis. He chuckles ruefully again and indulges in another ecstatic glug.

Ficción #1

The bar I was drinking in used to be a hairdressers. I knew this as I recalled having my hair cut here as an infant. And now it was a gentrified bar. An odd thing to have out here in my rural hometown on the outskirts of the city. And an odd venue in which to be drinking on a Monday evening. The place was dimly lit and empty.

Two dark haired men in their early 40s entered. One was bearded and had shrewd, twinkling eyes. The other was impassive and nondescript, calm. They slowly evaluated the empty scene and then took seats at a table close to where I was seated at the bar.
"Espero que estés bien," murmured the latter fellow.
"Tengo depresión severa," replied his companion, grinning in a most disconcerting manner. They suddenly reached over the table to hold one another by the forearms and began screaming in ecstatic horror. I began flecking my tongue rapidly in and out of my mouth in what felt like a gesture of solidarity.

Outside, behind the building the bar was housed in, there was a path which lead through some woodland, illuminated by orange streetlights. There was something perfectly melancholy about this lighting as I walked the path through gentle mist after exiting the bar. It was after midnight on a cool spring evening. I felt inspired and potent, a feeling which is always wont to wane. After walking for a while I was overcome with lethargy and fatigue. I zipped my coat up fully, slowly lowered myself to a prone position on the ground, and rolled under some shrubbery to nap.

I awoke to the white sky of daylight, birds chirping. An elderly couple were walking past with their tall, slender dog. It seemed as elegant and fragile as they did. I felt overwhelmed by a feeling of total love and sympathy for this couple and their pet. It was a tender, tingling feeling and I allowed it to seep through my central nervous system.

Back at my parent's house I let the dog out into the garden. He sniffed around and swished his tail. Ostensibly I was here to babysit him whilst my parents holidayed in Greece for a week. I was beginning to find his neediness wearying.

That evening I used my father's black and white laser printer to print out an image of a girl I'd been dating for a couple of months. She'd gradually stopped responding to my increasingly desperate text messages. I placed the printout on my bed, lay beside it, unbuckled my belt, unzipped my jeans, pulled them to my knees, and then began masturbating listlessly over the image, giggling intermittently. After around four minutes I ejaculated on it and then sank back into the mattress, descending into a light snooze.

I awoke at dusk and decided to take the dog out for a walk. The son of a bitch was as eager as ever. He dashed on ahead of me, sniffing around and swishing his tail. We encountered a judge who lived locally, out walking his dog. My parent's dog attempted to mount his, much to his chagrin which he expressed loudly. I giggled nervously in response and managed to apprehend and lead my dog away. Once we were out of sight of the judge I admonished the animal and then later felt bad about it.

Back at the house I poured myself an enormous tumbler of vodka and orange juice and put on Wayne's World (1992) on DVD. My parents owned an agreeably large TV screen. I dimmed the lights and then the dog and I settled on the sofa. I reflected on how this film always made me think of 90s American indie rock. The older I became the more life seemed increasingly incomprehensible. Not necessarily in a bad way either.

By the time the film was finished I was attending to my third enormous tumbler of vodka orange. Warm feelings of elation and goodwill flowed through me. I watched a documentary on TV about the Grateful Dead whilst enjoying two more tumblers.

I awoke on the sofa. The sky was white. Birds were chirping. I took the dog out and immediately encountered the two Spanish chaps I'd observed at the bar a couple of evenings prior. In spite of the fact that it was before 11am they both seemed to be drunk. They were cavorting around in a manner that could be described as both frivolous and disconcerting. I grinned nervously. They greeted me with ornate bows replete with hand flourishes. I responded in kind. The dog barked and became animated, perplexed by this behaviour. We began dancing, the three of us, locking arms and spinning one another around in an improvised jaunty jig. The dog swished his tail and bared his teeth, his eyes gleaming, his tongue lolling. We clapped our hands and shook our asses. A bald, bespectacled man in a puffy jacket stood nearby, tapping at his phone whilst smoking a cigarette. He'd occasionally look up to observe us with complete nonchalance, as if he didn't possess any sense of how preposterous this spectacle was.

Memories came flooding through me. I remembered stifling a sob at my aunt's funeral. I remembered mutual masturbation with a school friend during adolescence. I remembered a drowsy afternoon during summer at my high school music class. I remembered the swimming pool at high school, the sound of echoed shouts and splashing water. I remembered orange light reflected in a shallow rain puddle in the school playground. I remembered days of snow. I remembered a bird-watching expedition with my grandparents. I remembered a trip to the zoo with my grandparents.

Things just go away. They go away and don't come back. Good things, bad things. They're gone and that's it, they don't hurt you or heal you anymore or whatever it is they did, if they even did anything at all.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Crawl into the Traps that you set for Yourself

It was an unremarkable Wednesday night and I was attempting to cycle through various activities in order to pass the time. A typical evening such as this would involve Spanish lessons, playing guitar, reading, watching Netflix and perhaps even playing video games as a kind of reward had I exhausted all other avenues with regard to what I deemed more worthwhile pursuits. But on this particular Wednesday evening I was suddenly sick of Spanish lessons and I was sick of playing guitar. The thought of reading bored me. The thought of doing anything nauseated me. There was only one thing I felt like doing. And that was drinking a White Russian. Just one, one or two and then early to bed of course as I had work the next day. I felt agitated. Could I trust myself to be measured and reasonable? And Kahlua was expensive, this was a decadent notion I found myself entertaining on a generic Wednesday evening. I opened my laptop and opened up Google Chrome and ran a search for Tesco Kahlua. My worst fears and deepest hopes were confirmed – it was on a special offer just now. With weary, wary excitement and donned my coat and ventured out into Wednesday night. I returned 30 minutes later with the vodka, Kahlua, milk and some token grocery purchases to assuage my conscientious and also appear more responsible before Tesco's cashiers. The first drink I poured was ridiculously sensible, almost as if I was parodying my restrained intentions. A very neat measure of vodka and Kahlua with a generous volume of milk and ice. I dropped a straw in the glass, took a few quick sips and congratulated myself on being so measured and sensible. I'd also bought some beers. My reasoning was that I didn't want to be chugging at White Russians so I could open a beer as a chaser. I opened a beer. The second White Russian I poured was perhaps slightly less sensible. It was hard to gauge; residual chunks of watery ice made it hard to determine the measures I was pouring. Were these measures measured? I did not measure them. Perhaps I should invest in a shot glass and only pour standard measures. I opened another beer. I poured another White Russian. Just a couple more as I had work in the morning and it was jesus it was already almost 1am how did that happen OK just one or two more as long as I was in bed by 1:30am it would be oh jesus how was it 2am already terrible terrible this is terrible what the fuck am I doing drinking another White Russian and another beer at 3am I need to go to bed and have four hours sleep.

I woke up half an hour after I was due to be in the office. It was a day of severe self-recrimination.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

The Consolations of Wind and Prayer

The consolations of wind and prayer are sufficient (sometimes)

And yet we do seek refuge in the depot

Inebriation is swift and total
Eyes closed, singing softly
The jacket is impossible to adorn
The keys are elusive
The stairway is problematic
The polite grin wavers
It'll flicker out soon when
You tell me you want
to forget all this

Sunday 28 February 2016

A Memory

Bowls of strawberries glazed with sugar, cucumber sandwiches and various other quaint refreshments were set upon a checked tablecloth adorned table. Lots of people I didn't know were in attendance, friends and acquaintances of my late uncle. They were brightly dressed and the invitation was clear on this; it was to be a celebration of life party as opposed to any kind of traditional wake. A large, jovial black woman in a yellow blouse sipped coffee and grinned at mum and I. Dad nibbled at a cucumber sandwich, one hand casually in the pocket of his khaki trousers. I marvelled at the eclectic, multicultural, bohemian circle of friends my uncle had kept. And then of course it seemed to be in keeping with his progressive lifestyle as a gay man in London. How unknowable he seemed to me in that moment! What little I knew of him was half-remembered from the few times I'd actually met him on his infrequent visits back to Edinburgh, his home town.
Dad finished his sandwich and then stood behind me and made a pantomime of pretending to strangle me, a weird kind of jape. It was clear he didn't know how to behave in these circumstances. Gatherings made him uneasy, even more so when he was some sort of focus of attention as the brother of the deceased. For my part I wasn't quite sure how to behave or what to feel. I seemed to be experiencing everything at a remove, as if from a distant viewing platform. Mum seemed reserved and somehow stoically cheerful in her shades and elaborate hat. My aunt, my uncle's younger sister, was tearful. Thinking back on it now I suppose a drink of alcohol might have helped me relax a bit and process what was going on. But I didn't really know what alcohol was as a seven year old boy. Perhaps I sipped a carbonated beverage although even that seems unlikely as the first time I tried Lilt around that age it had made me sob. Almost twenty years later I would pour grandpa a glass of coke and he'd tear up trying to drink it - “it's difficult to drink,” he would wince. I would watch with amusement and mild embarrassment on his behalf. Which, come to think of it, is how I observed many events and spectacles throughout my life. Removed, ready to dash away and hide. I remember deciding at one point during my teenage years that I'd like to “hide in the empty spaces of this life.” I think it was a Pere Ubu lyric or something.

They cremated my uncle on a sunny afternoon in London and, at the end of the service, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was played. Perhaps this was in accordance with his wishes. I remember Granny saying she was prepared to leave before the rocky bit kicked it, fearing it would all be too much. Granny was also reserved, rarely emotional or tearful. Once, many years after the funeral, maybe five or six years later, or more than that, she was talking about my uncle and she seemed to be on the verge of tearing up. And mum had noticed and later brought it up with dad when they were alone, and dad had said that maybe that's what needed to happen, she needed to “have a good greet.” But emotion or confrontation were not valid behaviours within dad's family; “you all bury your heads and avoid these things,” as mum helpfully liked to point out. If we were irritated or upset we affected nonchalance. If we were annoyed with someone we'd indicate it in a subtle, passive-aggressive manner.

The sugared strawberries were delicious. I'd never tried them prepared this way before. Afterwards I went and played out in the back garden of whoever's house we were in with some other kids, my younger brother would have inevitably been amongst them. So surreal to be in this strange city, in this strange house after this strange life event, my uncle no longer living. My brother a couple years younger than me, I wonder how much he remembers or understood at the time. If memory accurately serves, we all stayed overnight in a hotel and me and my brother shared a room with mum and our auntie. When we got back to Scotland and I was back at school, my teacher asked about my trip to London, commenting on the sadness of the occasion for my visit. And there was almost something there, but it was behind a wall of ice, or it was like there was something that was defined only by its absence, like a negative or a mould where there should've been something fierce and real and three-dimensional and emotional.

Saturday 19 December 2015


10 minutes late, is he trying to come the cunt? Relax man, you're hardly the most outstanding proponent of punctuality – you've executed some of the most appalling breaches of social etiquette with regard to arriving on time. Aye, I suppose that's accurate, just linger here at the bar a while longer and sip your pint. Let the bored bar staff study you and surmise your story, no, don't let that irk you. Move away from the hatch a wee bit. They're overstaffed and moving in and out of there quickly to attend to the most trivial of clean-ups. Pint glasses must be washed and refilled, the cycle perpetuated. It helps us think, after all. Ah, the clarity of a few pints!

Quarter past, where is the cunt! This really is unacceptable, one is tempted to finish one's pint and absent oneself from the premises. A warm cheerio. More than halfway through the bloody pint now. He'll be here any moment. Forget about the fact that one's presence standing at the bar somehow encumbers the bar staff and makes them feel exhausted and disdainful. I'm sure it doesn't anyway. Weird cunts that work in here by the way. A passive aggressive hostility is inferred. He'll be here, he'll be here. Where the hell is he then? A plausible explanation for being held up I'm sure, come on you miserable bastard don't jump to conclusions, he's coming he's coming. He's not coming. God it's hot in here. Why do they have the fire and the ceiling fan on. One removes one's jacket and hangs it on the underside of the overhanging bartop. A most efficient and excellent way to quickly achieve optimal comfort.

All available space feels occupied, it's okay, one enjoys one's vantage at the bar, oversees the patrons lost in vast conversations. 15 minutes now that's okay, no need to foster the countenance of a doss bastard at this juncture.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Consensus of Faux Awe Achieved Through Hostile Pantomime

It was whilst frolicking in the Misty Gardens of Wan Mirth that I happened to encounter it, it being a disagreeably effete, bespectacled creature which pranced around hypnotically, its curious and androgynous eyes checking to see that I was observing it, pantomiming an expression of awe for me to feel obliged to mirror so that some kind of consensus that something spectacular was taking place might occur. I grimaced, looked away, and farted silently. The creature, which seemed somehow nervously sedate, continued to cavort and dance around me, behaviour which struck me as being unpalatable in the extreme. I demonstrated my disdain by wincing, snapping my fingers, and jerking my head in a series of admittedly bizarre movements. I had the feeling that the creatures' ritual was transforming in infinitesimal increments, at such a ponderous rate that the changed nuances couldn't quite be observed; instead the overall feeling conveyed to me by this creature's startling behaviour altered from one of gruesome allure to one of seething hostility. It was at this moment that I allowed myself to feel panic and emit a drawn-out scream which the creature duly mimicked with eerie accuracy, standing at a 90 degree angle to me all the while. The initial panic having subsided, I began to experience a feeling of monstrous elation and horrendous joy. I allowed the scream to flow out of me with a sense of relief akin to the relief afforded by urine vacating one's penis or excrement exiting one's anus or semen erupting from one's excited penis. The creature held my arms at the elbows and I did likewise with it as we howled euphorically into one another's faces.

A Snapshot of the Russell Athletic Brand Ambassador

He was wearing his mauve Russell Athletic jogging bottoms with black and white Reebok basketball trainers. His jacket positively billowed over his gaunt frame. He wore sunglasses and grinned serenely. They'd told him he mustn't smile too much, they'd warned him against it. Such behaviour wasn't becoming of a Russell Athletic brand ambassador. A pensive, sombre demeanour was to be preferred.
A couple at the next table were having a discussion about an absent third party, someone the woman kept referring to as being "manically depressed."
Outside, a bald man in a puffy jacket was smoking a cigarette whilst studying and tapping the screen of his phone. A bored looking dog languished on the step, swishing its tail. Two stern looking lesbians with cropped haircuts and tweed jackets sauntered past. The afternoon was cold and clear. The Russell Athletic brand ambassador walked down Leith Walk, immersed in the flow of pedestrians. The unfathomable night gardens of Edinburgh were accessible to him in that moment.
Follow @dharma_ass