March 18, 2008 at 11:00 pm (Teaspoon verse)

In the recesses of my head a little man says a prayer. I don’t know this man, he is devout. He is a zealot. He is keeping the show going while I take a break into a coma, of sorts — a self-indulgent lapse into another dimension somewhere between death and his incantations. His movements become frantic, as if he is trying to save me. Stop, I yell, but he continues the ritual, bending down, kissing the ground, posing like a churchgoer at a pew, then, levitating like a yogi, actually floating, rolling about, until he tires. Then I start to breathe. He disappears.

Yesterday I went shopping in Portobello Market. It’s a road I’ve liked since childhood, and one that I still like now. The fruit, the antiques – admire both but buy neither. Now here I am, unable to breathe, nullified by the mantra – ‘Must die, must die’. Not worthy of life, must die to live better.

Peering over a crag, I see a river. It carries my fingers in boats. They seem to be wriggling a goodbye. It’s the state’s punishment for not doing your paperwork on time. Hate paperwork, made it an excuse to destroy myself – I cannot be bound by such worldly demands and prefer the consequences of ignoring them.

A court hearing, curt spearing, I am dead. The judge dispatches the bailiffs to relieve me of my debt to society. I leave a few manuscripts, not penned by me but the previous occupant of my apartment. He left three novels under the floorboards, not the best novels I’ve read but certainly not the worst. He thought it better to stick them where they might be discovered by a plumber rather than a publisher.

Still, he has managed to reach one reader, Brian Hawthorne – his name not mine; lived here twenty years ago. The first novel is about a boy whose bicycle is stolen. Got it for his thirteenth birthday, left it outside a shop in the days when you didn’t need to fasten everything down – but you did – and it was gone. His parents tried to buy him other bikes, but like some children are with a dog, so he was about his steed. He fell ill, he dreamed of pedals and chains and mudguards and brakes.

Perhaps the story will give pause to the bailiffs, but no, they’ll rip the guts out of this apartment, sell the nails in the bloody floorboards to their own mothers, if they have them, the hounds. My fingers float further down the river. These words I write with my knuckles.

The boy with a bike grew up, married a woman who lost a pram. Her husband left her for being forgetful. She prayed to St Anthony, but not even he had sympathy for someone who’s lost their child while popping into a shop to buy cigarettes. They lived a life and they died but not before the boy – a child even in his sixties – came across the bike he’d lost and the thief who stole it.



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