• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 09
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PETIT GUIGNOL

Godshaw This one.
Ridley Really?
Godshaw Yes it’s this one.
Ridley With the guy and the.
Godshaw Girl yes that’s them.

Ridley That’s them?
Godshaw That’s them.

Ridley Huh. I thought they’d be more,
Godshaw More,
Ridley I dunno Godshaw given the things they’ve. Given the things they’ve done I thought they’d look more,
Godshaw Look more what? you thought there’d be like, blood,
Ridley Not blood necessarily, just more evidence of what they’ve, but it just looks like a little poky office they work from, it’s a mess, it’s like ours, they look like jokers right?
Godshaw Do they, what do jokers look like.
Ridley You know like, see-through?
Godshaw See-through, I see.
Ridley These, they, these don’t look like the ones who,
Godshaw The ones you’d pictured in your mind, what had you pictured in your see-through mind Ridley tell me,
Ridley I hadn’t pictured anything. We had to find them, that’s all, we have to shut these crazies down and now we have a picture we’re only fucking going to.

Read more >
1

A Short Play for George

PART 1: YOU'RE IN THE BASEMENT BECAUSE YOU'RE HIDING. YOU DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT YET.

It's cool and dark. It smells like damp concrete. You kneel down thinking: I'll cry intensely for 5 minutes and then I'll get my shit together and get on with my life. But you don't cry. You just sit there. Then, Annika, you realise...

ANNIKA

Hello?

There's a figure crouched between the coat rack and the bikes.

ANNIKA (CONT'D)

I SAID HELLO-

The figure looks up. It's the woman who delivered the mail.

WOMAN DELIVERING MAIL

That's bad news isn't it... The tests...

ANNIKA

It's not /that bad

WOMAN DELIVERING MAIL

Well...

Read more >
2

The Dying Craft

Characters

Rupert – Sixty-year-old white male. Owner, The King’s Tailor Shop, British.
Jess - Twenties, mixed raced, American.

Setting
King’s Tailor Shop

Jess
You done?

Rupert
No.

 

Jess
Now?

 

Rupert
No… may I help you child?

Jess
Lady.

Rupert
Young lady.

Jess
Much better. Who calls someone a child?

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3

Junk Shop

MARIA is stood, looking at JOHN, who stands completely motionless throughout the scene.

Maria I never liked this place, you know.
It was probably a blessing that I only worked here a few months.
I thought it was creepy; it’s the perfect setting for some kind of gruesome Victorian ghost story. All this tat gathering dust on the shelves. The old, peeling shop front. And you, with your tight-lipped smile and your high pitched, raspy voice like an old ghost. So weirdly proud of this place – why was that? It looks like a bomb site. Going on and on about my sales targets when we got about two customers a week. And you had the cheek to call this an antiques shop! Look at this stuff? Like this.

She picks up an object, a mass of gold fabric.

What even is this? Look. Who in their right mind is going to buy this?

Sorry, I shouldn't have said look.
You can't look. That was silly of me.

I hated it here, but I needed this job, and you knew that. You were sympathetic at first, when I told you about my dad, you understood if I was late, you didn't ask questions – I almost started to like you.

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4

BRAZEN

He stands in a pool of affectation,
proboscis askew at something she’d said,
and my Melanie all the more alluring
in her abashed yet defiant pose,
perched on the press
adorned with a poster
I’d thought SciFi at purchase,
but which revealed itself
as an ad for some pathetic
self-realization publication.

The state of the apartment
had been affront enough on his pomposity.
I could only grin and wonder,
stepping from the bathroom –
spick and span –
and peremptorily raise my arms
as a prompt.

Plenty of ‘p’s there,
the only ‘q’s the quills
of the porcupine fish
she continued to suggestively fondle.

5

Leader

Leader
Man: I’m really not asking to enter into a discussion about the matter.
Woman: Hm.
Man: All I’m respectfully suggesting is that you might at least consider the red.
Woman: I’m wearing the gold.
Man: But have you not considered the red?
Woman: I have.
Man: Do you not think that the red is somewhat more complimentary than the gold? It shows your connection to the flesh, your oneness with the community. They are all wearing red. They need a leader who is one of them.
Woman: No.
Man: Of course, of course. But-
Woman: A leader leads.
Man: But I’m concerned. I’m concerned they won’t accept it. If you deny them access to the blood of the snails and the swine they will have their blood… elsewhere.
Woman: I know the risk I take.
Man: I’m just concerned that it could be futile. We must fight from within. This will be too much for them. Change will be too much. Besides, do you not find the gold somewhat… obvious?
Woman: Exactly.
Man: But do you not consider that it makes it look like a done deal before it is?
Woman: I do.
Man: The crown sparkles in the reflection of the blade.
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6

Forward Future

Hello, I heard the shop bell ring.
May I be of assistance?

I know you're there, but I can't see you,
because I'm not looking.
This is the certainty with which I live my days.
It can't be otherwise, can it?
I mean, what would I do if you weren't there
unless I was looking at you?

You have to be there,
so you might as well tell me
the reason you came to my store.

Forward Future! In this I must believe--
this I must measure
with the tape draped around my neck,
as though I were a tailor
and you a suit of clothes for which I fit myself--
you, my alter ego, anima,
my Future.

This after all is a place of business,
and I am here to earn a living.
Don't do anything we'll both regret.
The Customer is always right,
and that's why I'm counting on you.

7

The Changeling

Dearest, I told you, Take Your Daughter to Work day
didn’t mean ours, not this one. The way she mocked me

as I bent, measuring an inseam with my tape, pinning
its metal edge against an insole without tickling

and lifting it up to the groin, discretely. She groaned
and rolled her eyes, then lunged, and for a moment,

I was more than sure she would displace me, reach up
and grab…but then she turned, distracted, fishing

through my wallet to pad what you’d already provided,
and then (blessed moment) sashayed away, the shop bell

jangling, the doorstop expelling a soft whoosh to stop
the slam. What I wouldn’t have given for a willing heir,

male or female wouldn’t have mattered, to take over
the shop, but she will never, gone, no doubt, as soon as

the first sugar daddy comes. And no, dear, I’m not blaming.
I know you, know we, did what we could. This one’s

a changeling, all tooth and claw. The sooner she’s gone,
the sooner we’ll rest easy, no more scissors beneath our pillow.

8

Seamstress of a New World

She’s trying to tell him something
But he looks the other way
As shadows lengthen on a Friday evening
And their worlds come unstitched and frayed.

His confidence was in the measure tape,
She wields the needle like a wand;
The goings-on he’d soon put a drape
He can now hardly understand.

She’s trying to tell him: Daddy
This is what I want to be
Though you never approved it Daddy
And tried to raise me differently.

Fathers have dressed daughters in seams of straightness or sin,
I’ll begin at the tears time has given us: I’ll start stitching skin.

9

The Old Curiosities Shop

"Curiouser and curiouser", cried Alice
as she rummaged through the remnants
of other people's lives,
now offered for sale
to become part of
another person's life.
"Curiouser and curiouser", she said
holding up two fat schoolboy
salt and pepper pots.
"They look like real characters,
I shall name them Tweedle Dumb
and Tweedle Dumber,
for now.

She searched in vain for a looking glass
to see if she could walk through it.
She had heard that this was sometimes
a curious possibility.
But among the objects in a large shiny bag,
she did find a set of playing cards
with a fearsome looking Queen of Hearts.
"I could write a good story about her",
she thought.

Read more >

10

Forward Future

Catchy name for a company we thinks.
Ol’ Sniffy-Nose, posh knob of hooter risen
like an Upstairsy-Downstairsy, trust-me butler
will measure you up. We don’t like bad smells,
so if you got the stink of BAD PAST on you,
kindly wash. He’ll tailor you into the destiny
that you want – for a price. Fairer prospects
are not the cheapest of things. Everybody is wanting

future brights. For a little bit more, we can make you
forget, so you can start again all fresh.
Our slogan is REPAIRED HERE and that is how
you shall be, my losslings. Step on up! Don’t mind
the rubbish in corners – that is just what some other
draggles left here ‘fore they quit this blah-blah present,
went to the light. Tell us what you need wiped
from your minds and we will oil it gone.

Cough up your coins – tis worth it. Pass them
to the suited chap – his tape is ready to size you up.
Dark-hair Lady in the run-fast shorts will put
this crown of snakeskins on your head –
we are not mad, though I see you think it such.
Get into the box she sits atop of. There you will find
the amnesia you need. It’s the venom – once
it gets into your blood you can be a countess,

Read more >

11

ABERRANT SALIENCE

Do you think he’s pretending
That what she is mending
Isn’t his hat, not at all?

Could it be that he
Is really a she
But can’t face what’s writ, ont wall?

Or is it that she
Has control over he
And he ... is feeling the gall?

Or is it that he
Can’t admit that a she
Might succeed him? Cause his fall?

Or is it that I
With my subjective eye
Have made an aberrant call?

12

Dudelsack

The sign in the window says Leather Repairs. She straightarms her way in.

The jingle of the bell over the door does nothing to lift his bald head. The sewing machine hums to him in a fairy ring of lamplight, and she feels her own shadow over her shoulder, a voyeur. Stands, hip cocked, one thin arm braced on the counter between them, the damp ochre light of the late Leith afternoon stitching a dubious halo behind her.

He slowly raises one soft finger to indicate patient waiting. His gaze never leaves the red silk running like blood under his hands. She hoists herself onto the counter and sits, one long leg swinging, sheepskin bag in her lap. Finally the thrum of the machine slows to a few quick arrhythmic beats, his hands drop to his sides. She waves the stiff round bag of skin at him, rustling the humid air.

— Old bagpipe sack. Needs stitched up.

He does not look up.

— Was my granddad’s. Came here after the war. Got into the local customs. Assimilation and all that. Anyway, can you—?

He runs a slow stiff finger along the spine of his gleaming machine. Heaves a soundless sigh and rises, revealing a pronounced limp as he approaches. He takes the bag gingerly from her outstretched hands, turns it over once, and shakes his head. Hands it back.

— But the sign in the window —

Shakes again, eyes on her ratty red sneakers.

— But it’s not actually —

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13

Communion

It’s important, the detail.

She sat, as I recall
Small, a doll, eyes daring
Beyond caring of the future

And?

She wore trainers, to run
Said she’d always been running
From men like me

Men like you?

Men like her father
Forever after possession
Paternal monsters, always hunting

And did you hunt her?

No, no need. She knew I would wait
I’d baited her, held the line,
Sedated her, reeled her in

And then?

I measured the length of her, the stretch of her
As we communed without communion
Shrouded in scarlet

But you see her still?

Yes, she sits at my shoulder
My angel, my perfect angel
And she whispers, Daddy …

14

Slave Little Tailor

Between him and me, we’ve got
your future tailored; he’s already
measured next week’s inside leg.
“Which side do you dress, Sir?”
he said. Looks like this month’s
hanging left – that’s why he chose
a red tie this morning. We’re looking
forward to sizing up the next pair
of impeachment trousers. I keep
telling him I enjoy the job, that he
can let me off the leash, but he’s wise
to my fantasies of setting up my own
unique prognosticating boutique,
and I can’t quite reach to let myself
off the hook. Look: I made this
to keep the aliens at bay – easier
than trying to build a wall. Come here,
Western Democracy, Alphonse has got
his tape measure all yellow and ready;
I’ve got the needles and the thimbles
that’ll mend your gaffes and scandals.
Give us your gusset. It’s ripped, and
only we can fix it.
15

Future Forward Team

Look after the days yet to arrive.
Our experienced team ensure

an arrival of events tailored
to your every need.

Charles measures your wishes and hopes
with Saville Row exactness.

Excellent A.I. Responsive to your every request.
Create a chalk outline of your past,

Take into account the arrival of the years.
Allow the fabric of your future to blend

Seamlessly with the adventures of your past.
Adele will make your coming days sexy,

with an exciting combination of goth girl
intelligence and ground breaking Carnaby Street

And Camden Lock edginess, satirical with complete
lack of deference that cocks a snoop at tradition

show you excitement and thrills to be had.
Please give a Nazi salute to your new companions.

Welcome engineers of your time to come.
Welcome a managed existence.

16

Talk of the Party

Satan needs a new suit
Taylor made
For his dry bones
To wear for his speech
On the future

Hell's new millennium parties
Are prestigious affairs
Only the finest linen
And most exotic of hides
Will accommodate such taste

He calls for
The most reputable couturiers
From the pit
Of damned souls
Making them an offer
They cannot refuse

17

Vacancy

It didn't bother me that you were older.
It had been dark in the nightclub but
even in the morning light of your bachelor's bedroom
your age dignified you and I wanted to love you.
I wondered why you'd brought me back
just to hold me all night like a teddy bear.
You opened your eyes and assessed me
with one eyebrow raised. Before I could say
'Good Morning', you leapt up and invited me
to a full English in the morning room.
You did not stay to hear my answer.

I managed the mushrooms, eggs and tomatoes
whilst you interviewed me for an unknown position.
Certainly nothing I'd knowingly applied for.
You grilled me as toast crumbs stuck between my teeth.
Many of my answers apparently pleased you,
the abandoned sausage, bacon and black pudding,
in congealed grease on the side of my plate, less so.
After a final cup of coffee, you withdrew.
I waited, mesmerised. After an hour you returned:
sank down on one knee and proffered a solitaire.
You did not ask, but placed it on my ring finger,
'You are to be my wife, you are just right.'
I stood up to leave, 'You surrendered yourself to me,
now you are mine.' My feet were rooted to his floor.
My mouth was zippered, my tongue dry.
Read more >

18

Vanity is the New Commodity

Lift
Tuck
Wax and pluck
Cut away the unsightly inches
Grotesque
Simply unappealing
Or so that's the message transmitted through
every medium
The future is getting thinner by the minute
What a shallow little existence have we created
Vanity a overwhelmingly hot commodity
It's apparent as we count the number of likes under
our selfies.
19

Performers, Edinburgh, undated

One for the press – yes, in the “green room”, waiting
On the beginners’ call, our true selves breaking
Through poses, costumes, props and make-up,
Doomed as we were to ten more days *sans* break, up
At the Dead Duck, just past the Lame Warrior.
“Catch us if you can!” (Be bothered.) Drama,

Such as it is, abhors monotony.
“Unless monotony itself can be –”
Dramatic? Aye, aye: there’s the rub. We’d made it
So far, on our plucky shoestring budget –
Despite the friends and family, promised profit,
Who’d smelt a rat and so thought better of it –

As, at least to us, our odd-couple act
Had seemed fresh. To us, at least. In packed
Previews, tailor-made, you preened. It suited
You so well: your well-made pose. The truth did
Not exactly measure up, alas,
When viewed The Scotsman’s way. For some crass

Reason, their hack found nothing to amuse
Him in an hour of classic chalk-v-cheese
Improvisation – funny that. Our Fringe
Fever faded soon enough: a pinch
Of failure slowed the heart. How strange to feel
It mattered once. As photographs reveal.

20

The Turn is Coming

He just doesn’t measure up.
He thinks I don’t,
But, really, it’s his problem.
He turns his back to me
And thinks I care, but
The truth is that I’m
Relieved not to see his
Face for a moment.
That smirk, that upturned Nose...
Who does he think he is?

He’s the one who called me,
And I’m the one who won’t
Call back without a raise,
A big, big one, to make up
For all of his shortcomings.
Boss? I don’t think so…
You couldn’t have made it
This far without an
Uprising upturning everything.
Just wait until the next uprising
Turns on you.

21

Rejection

The girl jumped up on the counter, her tan legs dangling over the edge. “Angel said you could fix this for me.” She tossed the costume toward the tailor.
        He bent, picking it up with two fingers and holding it away from him. “I will do no such thing,” he replied, dropping it beside her and adjusting the tape measure around his neck so that it hung in equal lengths on both sides of his suit. “I do not do these kind of repairs.”
        “But Angel said you did. He was confident you wouldn’t refuse,” the girl said, leaning toward the tailor and resting her hand on his wrist. Her glittered nails caught the light and sparkled. He shook her hand away and adjusted his lapel, his cheeks blushing at the warmth of her skin.
        “I don’t know anyone by the name of Angel, so I guess that solves that. I’ll show you to the door,” he said and motioned toward it.
        The girl didn’t move. Her deep brown eyes held his for a moment. The tailor wasn’t expecting this.
       “Angel said you would, and I need this tonight.” She laid back on the counter, stretching her arms up toward the yellowing fluorescent lights, then turning her head toward him. “It’s going to be the best party ever. I can’t wait. Angel’s taking me,” she said and smiled.
       The tailor tried not to look in her direction. At her soft skin, her leanness, the way her limbs moved gracefully, like a gazelle. An undiscovered elegance buried in black eyeliner and red lipstick.
       “So will you do it?” she asked again, sitting up and popping her bubblegum.
        He blushed again as the scent of her gum drifted to him. “Absolutely not, young lady. And you can tell this Angel character not to send anyone else to my shop.” To emphasize his point, he turned his back, refusing to let his eyes drift over her ankle, which was now just inches from him.
22

A-Line Lament

Interfacing with a client you’re crewel elastically
but I bolt you to bow there’s sew much more to me.

I have notions and dreams (knot hems or French seams)
you’re an armhole of a bloke and darn, it’s no yoke.

Zippers have their lace, paper patterns too
but pleat understand there are pins I needle do …

        Oh, I’m basting my time; you can’t smocking hear
        for I’m a dumb tailor’s dummy and you have CLOTH EARS!

23

Your Future is Yours

I have no nose for girl-stink,
especially accompanied
with your hang-ups
and pouts.

I have the measure of you
and if I feel for your future,
I would never call it contempt.
I am afraid of you.

You know this.
It is my job to put you
on a stage, a pedestal.
I will do my job.

Do not ask me to look
into your eyes or feel
your thighs. Do not
suggest I touch your lips.

24

THE FLIPSIDE OF VICTIMHOOD

For such a sensitive child, shy in class, it seems counter intuitive that Deirdre should be tagged with the label ‘precocious’, endeavour to become the class clown and be defined by some as a bully … but there you are. It was undeniable that some sort of violence had germinated within, but it was more sinister.

At that time her father was seldom home before bedtime to have the opportunity to browbeat, so discipline was left up to her prime carer: a mother whose perceived new and disagreeable habit (manifesting at the appearance of her natural born – non C-section sister) of either forgetting Deirdre was present, or just purposely ignoring her.

This might have been put down to exaggeration born of a child’s addiction to attention, especially as a first born, if Deirdre hadn’t repeatedly been left mesmerized at the sweetie-counter of a nearby supermarket while her mother ambled off with some friend or other cooing over the latest addition to the household, invariably cosseted safely in mother's arms via some sort of harness.

Deirdre’s resultant gambits for attention by any means … from anybody … and her being stocky in build, had led to the wraith-ish urchins in her class calling her a fat lezzo.

Having no gang to back her up – legacy of prior over protection of not being allowed out to play with others – and not being over-blessed with verbiage, her frustration and hurt resolved into putting the offenders in a headlock – which she’d seen on the wrestling channel – until they apologized.

Read more >

25

Alterations

They sent me in
for expert tailoring
for you to edit me
into a better fit,
So I sit and wait,
worried,
as you turn your back
in prim displeasure,
then measure me
in one sad glance

You see the job will be
more than the usual
snip and tuck
more like a wipe
and full revision--
writing me over
in binary code
locking me into
a new algorithm
that knows how to come
to an acceptable conclusion-

Read more >

26

For the man with the tape

So you think you've got my measure,
Tell me where you think you'll place me –
Somewhere between caught and zen?
If you think you’ve got me taped,
Maybe between zen and empty,
You may find you are mistaken –
When you define me,
You destroy me,
Empty counting up to quirky,
You describe me
To contain me,
Quirky’s on the way to sporty,
You contain me
With your figures,
Sporty marks the way to nifty,
But my figure
Is my own.

27

Tight For Time

Michael – the costume designer
Cora – the magician's assistant
Setting: a dressing room under the stage

Michael: In all my years as Head of Costumes, I have never had my expertise questioned. It's got to be either the snakeskin or the gold lamé and, quite frankly, with your colouring, it has to be the lamé. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Cora: Michael. Look at me. I'm not Debbie McGee. I'm not that kind of magician's assistant. Dev's not that kind of magician. This is raw magic, Michael.

Michael: Raw? I've been in this business all of my working life. I've seen every trick. If you're going to be clambering in and out of boxes, you need a bodysuit.

Cora: I'm wearing this.

(Michael scoffs)

Michael: (under breath) Huh. We'll see about that.

Cora: Michael, look at me.

(Michael resolutely looks the other way)

Cora: I can make you look… (Cora waits) Michael… what's this?

Michael: If you think you can make me turn around, then I'm afraid you're surely mistaken... The snakeskin then? A compromise.

Cora: I don't wear animals. Michael.

Read more >
28

A Case of The Shifted Gaze

Tailor: It is some kind of a postmodern meets nihilist concept.

Woman: Look the other way.

Tailor: I am.

Woman: Pay attention. There is a revolution happening close.

Tailor: I can't hear anything.

Woman: A tailor looking the other way instead of taking measurements and leeching is quite a beginning, don't you think?

Silence. Tailor continues to look elsewhere.

29

Tailor Made

Dad What on earth do you call that?

Valda Headgear… It’s a ‘fascinator’ — the latest fashion.

Dad Yes, I know what ‘fascinators are, Valda. I could think of a lot of things to call it, but ‘fascinator’ wouldn’t be one of them. You’re not really intending to go in it, are you?

Valda Oh yes — the thing is — I want to make an impact.

Dad (After a pause) I see. Put it on, then, petal.

She does so. It comes down over her eyes

Dad You’ll make an impact all right — falling head over heels downs those steps.

Valda Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.

Dad Evidently.

Valda I could just keep pushing it back.

Dad Not if you’ve got to shake hands with — you know who — could end up being be very embarrassing for you.

Valda (crestfallen) Yes…I suppose you’re right.

Dad Don’t worry, I’ll think of something. Now let me see. (he thinks, looks around his workshop) Got it. Top shelf. Buckram. Not used as much today, but should do the trick in this instance. (He fixes the hat. This time it fits) There you go. At least it’s not covering your eyes. Read more >

30

Localised

Cramped thatching in
A criss-cross and perpendicular points -
Unforgivable intersection, one
Interloping latticed look.

I say. Darling - what are you looking at?
How far - the end is near - does one
Expect to overlap?

Angles of indifference say look here,
Away, and cast your eyes ahead of time -
The foreword, far.
The foresight misaligned.

Small points at where
These points are meeting.

31

Memento Mori

Characters
Arnold Winton – Fifty years old, mortician.
Beatrice Jones – Mother of Isa (deceased)

Setting
A mortician’s parlour.

BEATRICE: I don’t like it.

ARNOLD: The stance you mean? I can adjust her, if you like?

BEATRICE: Not, all of it. I don’t like any of this.

[She indicates the whole room]

ARNOLD: I see.

BEATRICE: Tell me again. What was it she wanted?

ARNOLD: Right, let me see, she left instructions.

BEATRICE: Instructions?

ARNOLD: Yes, she wrote it all down, what she wanted. Just a minute, I have them somewhere.

[Rummages about on a desk trying to find the papers]

BEATRICE: Wait, please, can you do something about her eyes?

ARNOLD: Her eyes? Oh, the glass. You don’t like it?

BEATRICE: Glass?

ARNOLD: Ah, right, yes … perhaps I need to explain.

BEATRICE (sobs gently): No, don’t. I’d rather not.

Read more >
32

A Tailor’s Bespoke Lament

He wants to clothe her legs in Harris tweed,
to hide the naked impudence of her knees.
The tailor looks away, awkward and ashamed,
to keep his dignity; he refuses to be blamed
for her blatant disregard for morals and tradition.
She pouts and with her lashes bat him to submission.
Forward future isn't cricket; it’s not the way to be.
He keeps his eyes averted, he doesn’t want to see
the sheer gold-wire boob tube and the scarlet skirt,
the lurid modern mode that makes a tailor’s heart hurt,
bound by the measuring tape he keeps around his neck,
outlined with the chalk that marks decorum and respect.

33

The Milliner’s Dilemma

Characters
BLISS, a young woman (to herself seems more like a poison than a bliss)
STEWART, her father who is a stiff sort, tailor by trade, with a tape measure round his neck, and the feeling that there are pins, sharp straight pins, somewhere about his person

PLACE her bed and just beyond it there is a hook on the ceiling over her bed from which a thick wire extends, strong enough to hold her, and there is a lot of bad lighting that creates strange sharp angles

THE MILLINER'S DILEMMA

Sharp light falls on BLISS yet STEWART is partially obscured

BLISS
Whatever you say you're wrong

STEWART
Bliss, Bliss

(Lights shift to obscure BLISS and highlight STEWART)

BLISS
I am not here for you

STEWART
Please Bliss, you know how I get

(Lights shift to show BLISS working with a large sharp needle and gold thread on a brocade chapeau )

BLISS
I am not here for you, father
or your fancy ideas

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34

This Night Me

And when I get home there is the smell of rush-hour traffic in the air. The cars have gone from the streets but their trail can be followed back in time. It has driven its way into my home and about my furniture, up my nostrils and I find I have a care for the air when the sun’s not there. A night-time regret blooms at sunset, this night me disadvantaged to make its mark due to the need for sleep. It’s now when I kick off my shoes that I see the day me in a different light, this artificial light from the sixty watt bulb of my lamp. I feel the indigestion from rich food, I smell cigars on my clothes and my skin, breathe the toxicity from an absent hubbub, and rub creams where the foreign girl bit me.

This stillness of space, but not of mind, has me nightly reconsidering my place. I mean to do good for my constituents but there are distractions in natural light that are absent now. The jokes of my driver that I laughed at then are out of place and jar with this night me. The decisions I made in the cold light of day, the hard and difficult decisions, are out of step with the good I’d expected to do. It was this night me who settled upon the notion in the first place. It was this night me, those years ago, who saw things clearly without the distractions and chose a political life of good intentions. Daily, the distractions that appear in natural light swerve me off-course unknowingly until night. Nightly, I regret my actions of the day but instead of this night me finding a way to convince the day me to adopt my night thinking I take myself to bed. This complicit night me takes the necessary steps to initiate a switching off of who I am in the artificial light and in the morning, when all the distractions return in the natural light, I will be that day me again and those jokes will be funny and I will smoke cigars and make the hard decisions and I will forgive the smell of the air since the cars help that day me maintain the lifestyle this undistracted night

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35

The Proposition

      ‘So you won’t repair it?’
Mr Tufnell turned away from the young lady and her dress. Her slim brown legs were too much a distraction.
      ‘You’re stuck in the past, Mr Tufnell.’
      ‘This is a job for your mother. You know that. She does all the….ladies repairs, Angel.’ Right now she looked nothing like an angel with her dark smouldering eyes and pouty lips. Her foot brushed the front of his trousers and he flinched. Clearing his throat he moved an inch or two (he still thought in terms of inches).
      Angel grabbed the canary yellow tape measure dangling around Mr Tufnell’s neck, yanking him back. He raised his hand, coughing. ‘An..gel.’
      ‘It’s because I asked you to take my measurements, isn’t it? I scare you.’ She laughed and let go of the tape measure. Mr Tufnell pulled it from his neck and dropped it onto the table watching as Angel slid off the same table and wandered, touching his things, picking up his scissors, fingering the tailor’s chalk, brushing the bales of cloth.
      ‘Thing is Mr Tufnell you’re getting old like your ideas. The business is struggling. My mother needs this job and I need her to have this job so I can continue my acting course. Do you see?’
      ‘Not really.’
      Angel sighed. ‘My mother would make an excellent business partner. She has more imagination than you’ll ever have. I suppose you don’t care because you’re old and will be drawing your pension soon, but what happens to my mother then? What happens to me?’
      ‘I’m sorry –‘
      ‘Oh you will be. I can make your life hell. But you don’t need to do much, just cut my mother into the business like she wants. She’s got the money.’

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36

The Steward

He spoke in small calamities of sufferings
Where small shutterings of flesh fell from his mind
and remained on the cardboard floor for decomposition.
Likeminded people dwindled on the scraps, from a man with a million minds collapsed in grim.
He was a scholar, a poet, and an entity
who is no longer here to check next months rent.
As loves cluster could not be repaired
it now leaves everyday objects impaired past the point of unrecognisable.

37

Beauty of Darns

Measure me up for a new future
Make me a life anew
You may need something like strong suture
For it all to come through
Maybe you could unpick some stitching
That held me together
When I needed some prior fixing
When the end of my tether
Had started to unravel and fray
Unpick this solid thread
It’s expensive stuff, solid mainstay,
Use what I paid for and earnt instead
Of the flimsy ties that bind
Making fragile seams that come undone,
At the slightest tug unwind,
Left to flap free, can’t take the tension.
But that was all back then
I’ve done the darning, make do and mend,
I now want a when
To become a now, the last loose end
All woven in nicely
I have the pattern, the thread to sew,
The fabric made just from me
I’ve learnt through repairs, I am sashiko
Don’t just cut my cloth to fit
Take your tape measure and tailor me
A life to wear to befit
An embroiderer like me

38

ALTERNATIVE DRAMA

Alternative drama is all very well
But this is a right bloody farce –
While Julian stands like a shop window dummy
I’m sat on this box on my arse.

I answered the advert and packed in my job –
though leaving that dump wasn’t hard –
and polished my audition piece and performed
in the hope of an Equity Card.

Quentin, who thinks he’s the next Big Producer,
said I was just right for the part –
he couldn’t pay much, but was sure I’d be happy
to take up his offer for Art.

Well, I’m here, but I’m not at all happy –
I only get one meal a day
and the lodgings are dire, the landlady’s grim,
but the worst of the lot is the play.

The critics have panned it but that’s no surprise,
and Quentin’s gone off on the binge.
Our takings are nil and I’m quitting tomorrow –
so much for the Edinburgh Fringe.

39

We May Wear Sequins but We Don’t Sell Them

Inside leg? I couldn’t possibly Madam
it’s not that sort of establishment
not even in inches

You know you want to
Guess what I can do
with my hands

It’s not the hands that worry me
it’s the consequences - anyway
I’m not that sort of chap.

Have a go you might enjoy it
I’ll give you the time of your life
I won’t tell

I will I'll take you home
introduce you to my wife
six foot four black belt
first class shot.

Coming?
Coming.

40

Knock Knock

Who's there?
That's when I looked
out my window
saw these two standing

One of them
offered to measure my
life but I told
him he was not qualified

The other offered me
the world and kingdoms
brought creakily by
the sound of a large
blow-frog

I said no thank you
and sat back down
to mundane reruns
and cold cereal

Even when my fantasies
come true, I don't
want them anymore.

41

Lallies lusting in me kaffies

Message to left eye
Don't look at the leg
Message to the neck
Remain resolute
no turning back.

I have legs
standing tall in cashmere
just another prop.
Don't wave that leg at me
I've got the measure of you.

I have legs
that felt rough times
closeted in khaki serge
finally coming out

Forced to integrate in
demob pinstripe
beaten like a gangster.

I have legs
tired of hiding
in the shadows
thews aching for air
free from forced sameness.

42

Decimal

ten, count in tens
let me get this right,
not twelve or twenty or half crowns.
Let me set myself straight,
or three columns of figures
no quids, guineas or bobs.
While I remember,
forget the biscuit barrel of three penny bits
mixed with shell buttons and rubber bands.
Pour the coins in the dustbin,
brass and nickel and copper
and that blemished one on a chain.
King Offa’s long gone, did we even know?

43

The Cat Walk

Always looking forward to identify their future victims,
They purr and preen,
Stalking unsuspecting quarry,
Ruffling up their camouflage of feathers and fur,
Setting the stage for the drama of their lives to be played out on,
Using clothes as props,
Bait for dedicated followers of fashion,
Poised to pounce,
Their fickle, feline fancy used to dictate the latest trend,
Cheshire cat like smiles conceal their thoughts,
As they toy with their prey,
Before sending them scurrying away,
Clutching a fashionistas dream;
The latest version of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

44

Missed Connection

Clearly a clash of worlds, based on outward appearances. Her; young, defiant, basically clueless.
Him; arrogant, snobbish, and a real twit.
He looks at her and thinks ‘classless whore’ and she of him ‘righteous old man’.
But something drew them together at this place, in this time. Something that stirred him enough that he owns a shop dealing in oddities, where surely he must meet a lot of people similar to this young woman. And what is she looking for? Something that only a person with money and a certain quirky personality would have available for people like her. This place, this confused shop of alterations, old propaganda stockpiles, and curiosities collections, this back alley store, brought them together.
So why are they both so dismissive of the other?
Could it be he misses his own youth and wild days? Or that she reminds him of someone from his past he would rather forget? Does her youth and energy scare him?
Does he represent something she doesn’t want to be – settled, boring – but knows she will eventually become? Or is she thinking he only wants or expects two things from her – her body or her money. Maybe he looks like the father she hasn’t spoken to in two years.
“How much is this?” she asks.
“Oh, that is an interesting piece. I picked it up in Cairo and paid dearly for it.”
‘Yea, well how much you want now?’
Silence as he eyes her, thinking. Names his price.
Shrugging. “Yea, well forget that.”
He turns away. “Apparently I am unable to help you, miss. Good day”
“Whatever.” And rolls her eyes.
No shared connection found today.

45

Forward Future

You think I don’t see you looking at me in the mirror, eyes of scorn, tilted head. Since little I had to repeat your lines, say them backwards, distil their meaning; my success measured by your tight lips, folded arms, hands that never touched — bad girl, bad, bad, bad is all I got from you. Do not judge my room — a reflection of the mind you have sculpted for me, stacked with junk; this bed the lap I never had, a TV to tell me stories and sing me lullabies, red dress and velvety boob tube to keep me warm, roller blinds for boundaries, an old-fashioned camera for happy snaps. It’s time for you to leave now. I’m finding my own way forward — seven years on the coach with Freud to clean up this room.
46

Tyranny of Tapes and Other Vices

Athena: I cannot be measured by inches on an inch tape.
Tom: Why not?
Athena: Because I cannot and will not be reduced to numbers.
Tom: How old are you?
Athena: You are trying too hard.
Tom: Don’t you like the idea of a dress tailor made just for you? All eyes will be on you once you wear it. I can tell.
Athena: I will pick whatever I like from that store down the street. And I am tired of roving eyes.
Tom: That dress you are thinking of buying will probably have a size stamped on it too, you know.
Athena: But the one that will grace my body will be indifferent to its contours. I will make sure it is.
Tom: You are being difficult.
Athena: To whom?
Tom: You could be kinder to yourself. You can tell me how you would like this dress to be designed. I can guarantee that it will be more you than anything store bought! Wouldn’t that be just wonderful?
Athena: I like to keep my imagination private. And no matter what I wear, I will still be naked among those eyes you mentioned. I would rather keep them guessing a little harder about how my body looks unclothed.
Tom: Your mother would be mortified if I told her about this conversation.
Athena: And she wouldn’t have the heart to send me to another tailor. That’d be a hoot!
Athena’s mother: Are you done?

47

Where did my Jiminy Cricket go?

The rains had disrupted lives, some lesser so,
and up came an orchestra of crickets through pipes

battling water runoff, grasping slime against the storm,
emerging baptized on to drier shores of her pristine home.

Stridulating in hope for shelter in her territory,
they cowered in the shade, croaking pleas day and night.

She remained insouciant, but fear and worry raged
at the sight of some behind ominous black veil-like wings

and dead eyes gazing at her in the shower, and another edging
towards the bedroom and her trinkets – what if they exploded?

‘No, never’, she yelped, squashing some under rubber sneakers,
scouring the place for more of the uninvited tribe seeking asylum.

Before bed, she read out the tale of the kindly viable Jiminy Cricket
and the errant ignorant Pinocchio, just as an army of ants marched by,

cleansing the unclaimed casualties of her reign of terror on the crickets,
now eerily quiet with the dignity of the dead, and a casual thought

strolled into her mind that the devilish wings were rather translucent
and the eyes - simply complex and different, even iridescent.

48

The Bird

Measure meddle of man to slight the child
Grown to mother bomb the womb
Let us slip to forward future
All hail the years of light
Cloaked in wettest wine
Run to drunken shadows
Forced to pose for dollar signs
In hope the ruffled feathers bye
The bird in open fields

49

3 Poems

EMILY AS SHE KNELT IN REFLECTION

and/or present
emily appeared
to be mock-
eating oranges
on the floor
of our bedroom
this morning
& when i asked
her if she was
praying she
said that the last
time she prayed
was with
our children,
no, no no,
she whispered
i was turning
you into the words
i could consume
i was feeding
myself the love
i most want
you to give me
now, leave me
alone, i’m not
quite done yet

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50

Time

He measures out
his days
thoughts
words
feet by feet
yard by yard
inch by inch.

A measurable measured life
reasoned, reticent, rather dull.

She was ready
for the future
raring to go
with life.

But her haunted gaze arrests,
chained in rusty rage and misery.

Man overpowers Nature.

In the seething silence
her wildness struggles against
his time and worldly order;
But she lives in her future.

51

Measurement

She comes in beauty
She walks in flesh
Her eyes probing
In my tailor’s made nest

Her fingers brim of gold
Which drip onto the clutch
She orders a dress of red
Stitched with roses in a bunch

She owns the day
The dress looks for her stay
I will make her a dress of flesh
That will make a day out of May

The day yields to night
She comes attired, burning bright
The dress, a drape of burning embers
She is fire, a bonfire of flickers

52

Falling Into Arms…

Narrator and narrated
one prudish, the other
dog star
go and mellow in waters
stop this harangue
jilted, snubbed
come on you rub
both of you
in unorthodox dalliance
send some missives
write out love
only speaking will not do
signs and symbols
try the ribald
and fall into each
others' arms!

53

Distant Thread

Forward future
And backward past
She had been there,
He had been there also
And yet no stitching that conjoined her to now,
Or no measurements that pulled him off from there.
He, a stark freak and
She, a vacuumed desires;
He, a constant watch and unparalleled parameters,
She, a repudiated woman
Trying to stitch her present with a needle in her hands and
He, a distant, broken and puzzled thread;
Ill - fitting her designs
On the blank ivory cloth.

54

Strap me Signori

I liked it when Signori strapped me in. Something about the way he sized me up, circling slowly and surely, less a shark or a lion than a wattled turkey performing a death dance, all bald and fleshy, and domesticated, and delicious. He stopped short at my side, reached over to the butcher’s table and took hold of a tape measure with all the strength and sleight of hand of a – forget the turkey – I had it now; he was a cattleman, adroit and agile, waving his white lasso, wrapping it softly around the skeletal waistline, whipping me up into a private frenzy. Dio mio, what a wicked wife to delight in the cold, professional touch of a turkey-faced tiger.

But corsets do not slip on seductively like silk slips, you know. I clutched and wiggled and loosened with the quickening of my pulse and the shallowing of breath. Signori approached. I could hear the inner-leg of his starched suit rustle before I caught sight of him behind me in the mirror, his eyes fixed on the small of my back with blank indifference. What if I breathed deeper, flushed my cheeks?

I watched him watch me, convinced myself he wanted me, convinced myself he loved me, loved the curve of my hips and my breasts all freckled and billowing and beckoning. But Signori continued to lace from top to bottom in stony silence and fidelity; he did not shake or sweat, he did not lift his eyes to meet mine in the glass, he did not bend and whisper in my ear: “Turn around and let me -

“Forward,” Signori said, as if he didn’t know me at all. Taking hold of my hands, he placed them with precision at the base of the bustier. He tugged, I anchored, and eyes rolled to the sky. I felt my organs shift and squeeze, I felt his teeth grind, I felt my heart pound against the bars of an ivory corset cage. “Signori, mi amore, don’t you ever let me out of here alive!” I tried to cry, but fell short of breath, as if by divine intervention. Wicked woman! Read more >

55

Visions of Johanna making it to the Wimbledon Semifinal

My light’s flicker when I turn the A/C on,
the egg pot bubbles from the gas fired stove,
See fans in elation for the first time since 1978.
Not as yet, I am told –
Ambition bubbles higher on 12th street.
Mirages like a poet’s quality beat.

The tape measure rules: Never stop creating. Even when the present diverges from a fantasy. Is Annie okay?

Pause for a moment and see, really look outside. Take notice, the rain coming
down, but we’ll be here a while – just us, dry, unlike the moist city sidewalks.
Let the cotton-silk drapery cover the #FF box, it’s too imbedded in the past.
There are no repairs at Paddington station terminal #4E.
The client never really wept, he only held a handkerchief for the droplets
Which, he then chalked up as complicated rain,
Letting go of the gerber-baby-grown-up-plan.
They’ll try and sell you anything you can’t steal.

But what about the FF – what if it represented something
entirely and utterly outside the bounds of an imagination,
and what if – as long as we are speaking in hypothetical – the contents inside of
the box were what this woman, and this seeming snooty connoisseur of a man-
never having given a thought to how this nation makes us look pretty ugly.

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56

SHE LOOKS FORWARD

looks straight at me
through the camera lens
it's not a pose
she has done this before
while he looks the other way
always upwards in search
of a sky that is never there
she prefers the present to the future
ever since pictures became digital
and transcended her concrete box
of a basement room where her
new red dress is still unfinished
and the retro silver hat is too big
to be fashionable
she wants to know when it will be safe
to go outside – if there will be a signal
as hope still exists inside the frown –
even he cannot tell who measures everything
that comes his way
while a cornucopia of thoughts
are transferred between them
between the crevasses and cracks
that contain them
towards a future present
that's so hard to contemplate
or even bother about

57

some girls

(after Kaveh Akbar)

some girls aren’t born they
simmer into chilled air,
bring divergent heat, and
dare you to speak

some girls aren’t born they
grow themselves from
seedling form between
revolution and regret

some girls aren’t born they
form libraries, and when the
world goes purple they carve
Bolinus brandaris

some girls aren’t born they
act as cymbal for the yelling,
display it convex with their hands
and project out

some girls aren’t born they
stare back at the tie, suit, moral
abyss, and choose to meet
arrogance with defiance

58

Studio theatre

It’s not just a show, another tale to tell.
In small dark boxes, we remake the world.
We hide revolution in entertainment very well.
It’s not just a show, another tale to tell.
And once you are entranced, under our spell,
you’ll truly feel the change we herald.
It’s not just a show, another tale to tell.
In small dark boxes, we remake the world.

59

do an angelou, straighten your back

would it be so rude to hush you mid-rejection?
if, baby, i fashioned my hopes on our discretions
the quick smiles and the quirks of our eyes intersecting.

i washed and clothed with you in mind
i made this meal to stay alive
forget the world with you and gin alike.

i do and do
paint myself madonna, true blue,
and i dance myself out of tricks.

here naked i've nothing more to impress you with

and the only redeeming quality was

how long i was able to keep myself spinning

i impressed myself

did i really think i was not worth him

and in the silence my body sighed and rolled its eyes.

You did girl, yes, you did. Now,
do an Angelou, it's Friday now.
Straighten your back.
Straighten
        Your
              Back.

17/07/17
Rome, Italy

60

The Cat Walk

Always looking forward to identify their future victims,
They purr and preen,
Stalking unsuspecting quarry,
Ruffling up their camouflage of feathers and fur,
Setting the stage for the drama of their lives to be played out on,
Using clothes as props,
Bait for dedicated followers of fashion,
Poised to pounce,
Their fickle, feline fancy used to dictate the latest trend,
Cheshire cat like smiles conceal their thoughts,
As they toy with their prey,
Before sending them scurrying away,
Clutching a fashionistas dream;
The latest version of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

61