Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Oberbaumbrucke, 1988

O

ld postcards.

Take this card, from Berlin. A girl called Luanna Wechsler sent me a black-and-white photo of Gösta Ekman; folded a corner by the looks of it, licked a stamp. Here on my living room table, caught in a bright, hot, slant of sunshine, it’s like a ramp back into the past; one I don’t particularly want to slide down.

Luanna. Crazy Luanna. The one who drank too much and worked in vaudeville shows on the Eastern side, and had a costume for every occasion. If she wanted to be a cow, she was a cow. If she wanted to be contrite or flirtatious, she had the stockings and suspenders to prove it.

She drank too much: red wine by the cocktail glass. Feathers in her hair. Feathers in my teeth. Feathers floating in the bathroom porcelain, like little sail boats.

Her flat was tall, straight and narrow. Wooden floors under my unlaced paratrooper boots. A view out to the plazas, and churches, and the old walls, and the new wall, stretching out through a twisting maze of guard towers and barbed wire, where searchlights would suddenly focus on one fleeing body or another.

Luanna would laugh, and flop down on her couch, rich with throws, in a room that was empty of everything but plaster dust, and a fireplace with a mirror over it the size of a double-bed (Luanna always was a flirt, and if no one else was around, why, well, she’d do). And a record player. One of the old ones. The really old ones with the black ice cream cone, and the cranking handle from an old car, and the records that came in brown, rice-paper sleeves, and small writing I couldn’t be bothered to read, and the disks themselves heavy and brittle like hard liquorish.

She’d put one on and insist on dancing, eyes forward, stance like a ballroom dancer; my pulling back dreads and trying to shuffle along with her, wondering when-in-the-hell she was going to get curtains on those great, big bays, that showed half the city, and showed half the city Luanna when she got up in the morning and stretched – right out in one window or another – as soft and naked as the early morning sun; showing the day she had more than enough attitude and flesh to make it.

This is no longer a postcard, etched with her elaborate, copperplate scrawl.

At night, I know we must stand out like mannequins dancing in a department store. The lights are on – some five-Deutsche-mark bulbs shaped like candles, in an East-German light fitting shaped like a candelabra – and while she smiles and smiles, pirouetting, hands held in mine, just so, back arched, head tilted just a little left so that her throat shows, I shamble around, trying to get my bearings, trying to imagine us dancing above the city – amongst the lights – with some passer-by down below wondering, what the hell are those two crazies up to?

I wish I’d thought of that first. What were we up to?

Verrückten.

The mirror’s gilding looks fake in this too-much light, the record wheezes on in some ancient old waltz, with a woman singing in Swedish, I think, though its sounds as if she’s doing it into a cup, or her cupped hands, and as the dance progresses, there’s a dull, repetitive, click coming from the mechanism that’s making the handle twitch, and I can smell Luanna’s perfume all over again – some trip to Paris, but the artisans quarter or the artist’s promenade – and, as she laughs, and places her head to my chest, content to have me shuffle her around, I wonder if she’s listening for heart or clockwork, or imagines herself a child again; and the music is slowly pulling out and distorting, as all that energy she put in slowly plays out in grooved revolutions; the record wobbling, the voice starting to sound nasal and crazed.

Later, we sit on the balcony. It smells of pigeons. A light wind stirs a dangling aerial cable, from that annoying flat upstairs – “They’re bourgeois,” Luanna explains with a tip of her glass and exposes more of a leg from that V in her skirt. Long, attractive legs.

“I should have been a ballerina,” she sighs.

Cars beep and run furiously down below. Feathers detach from her boa, and drift like pink birds, intent on swirling back into the flat. On the floor, now, a simple mattress. I hauled it out of the cupboard.

“What should you have been?” she says, prodding my chest. She leaves the finger pointed there, bent like a sprung piece of metal. “Well?”

“I… I don’t know. Lots of things, I guess.”

“Like?”

She sips from her glass, lips fruitful; wine a crimson, shiny explosion of the heart.

“I dunno. Someone who could dance, I guess.”

She laughs, but says she’ll ask me again tomorrow.

More wine. More dancing. This time, to no music. Lights out, the ambient light of the city floods in for us to gawk at. I stare at none of it, of course: ignoring, as I, no doubt, have been previously ignored.

Later, we go to the bed we have been literally and figuratively dancing around.

If you lay flat, the hard parts of your body don’t clatter on the floor. It’s surprisingly comfortable. Luanna is warm. Her skin feels like velvet. Our empty glasses act like prisms for the moonlight, casting red arcs across the floor.

“I have a show tomorrow. Big German dancing. Sleep,” she commands, hair tousled. I was wrong about the Parisian perfume. She smells of patchouli. The mattress is a raft. Two plates lie next to us, like islands on that big, wooden floor.

If I wanted a memory that said I was all at sea, then this is it.

The postcard says, “I miss you, but I don’t love you.”

It was a lie, I think. But I got scared and let things drift away.

 

April 8, 2011   10 Comments

The Hangmen

Clubbing The Hangmen

T

he hangmen hang on enigmatic smiles,
Strung upon the cellar’d sawdust floor,
Clotting as the heartbeat clicks the tiles,
Pushing through the steel-trapped swinging door.

All’s well, the browsers price the carpet square,
Around the base-beat dancing floor,
I that pushed and pulled us there,
To slam dive on bottled glass till twisted, drunken, sore.

Kitch eighties ingrain the cracks,
Skritch and scratch the dance-floor town,
And heave upon the condensation tracks,
That wash the hip hop motion down.

Bodies packed and full in motion,
‘Yeah, baby, you got all the moves,’
In tribes of twos that churn the jumping ocean,
Kicked and drowned on tramping stiletto hooves.

Jellied eyes that scope the aluminium reef,
And watch like lecherous eels,
Sinewy scales that twist and writhe on gold-capped teeth,
And beckon on the nightly shadows, copping feels.

To weigh the flesh and gyrating glimmer,
On shark-tooth calculated scales,
The shoal that glides the silver shimmer,
Affecting ignorance on designer fishnet tails.

Our crew, our hungry troupe rasping,
Dismissive, placed in individual ear-shell words,
Over combo-music gasping, blasting,
This well-soft scene, these dog-dismissive birds.

A conference of eyes,
That decide from empty sucking glass,
To meander on or be that first that tries,
This blue-star steak-house grill of hip and ass.

A blood-hound ponders,
In tilted eyes upon a meaty marrow bone,
The pack frowns and shrugs and wanders,
To drooling foam in round, no lapping glass alone.

Lulled within the swaying lees,
One lone spar a’tooth the ocean’s gloamy cloak,
Dew claws, fierce fangs, beneath a face that no eye sees,
Prowling for the guts to lick the sweat and soak.

A door draped in industrial shreds,
That sway with electric plastic breathing,
Hemmed neon pink in the engine sheds,
On velvet stools the psycho-babble seething.

The electrode tear on feedback slides,
In trance back beat of the organ grinder,
Gristle skinned be-boppin’ bony hides,
Shrugging blades sashay the rhythm finder.

Come trancing beyond the cool-down pit,
Step, kick, the disentangled dancer,
On cracking jars, and piss and spit,
Volumetric swirls, writhing, curling, cancer.

Machismo breaks to ride the tunnel wave,
Jumps upon the steel-sprung, salty wood,
Ghostly flesh beyond the rainbow-rave,
Where high-trance infidelity, grinds the brood.

Fluttered out upon the catchy wires,
Designer hoody craws upon the hours,
Casual chrysali that split within the thumping fires,
As silken suited butterflies, high on poppy flowers.

November 25, 2010   No Comments