‘Sunday in the Pub’ a short story, like really short.

Some Sundays I spend the morning hours drinking strong coffee made weak by an overly indulgent pour of milk and sit with friends in a delightful writing circle. We write for a period of 5-15 minutes, with no revision, and no edits based on a one line prompt that we then share with the group. I ADORE this practice. Here is my story based on the sentence prompt, “the only thing I don’t enjoy on a Sunday, written in about 7 minutes I think. Its one side of a conversation between and old man in a pub and the person who happens to be camped at the bar stool next to him.

Setting of sorts.

If you can please read it in the voice of a somewhat drunk posh older english man.

“The only thing I don’t enjoy doing on a Sunday my dear chap is not going to the pub. HA. ONE must go to the pub, it is the seat, I say, the SEAT of culture. And joy. AND love. Love of your fellow man, which in these the most trying of times we need more of. And PINTS, oh lord have mercy on the soul of our beloved Queen does the world need more pints, and glasses of pinot noir or perhaps a nice Malbec maybe one from the Estate of my dear friend Jonny DoGood, that’s his real name you know. Moved from the emerald island years ago, so I hardly ever see him but each year he sends me a case of his finest Malbec, he named the best vintage after him self even, the DoGood Malbec. HA, what a laugh that Jonny, old Johnster, J Bones, that’s what we call him. Went to Harrow together. Yes we did, and what Aaaa time we had together. Whilst we were in third form, we really bonded, you know, came to be each others best bosom buddies. I have always liked that phrase; yes we became each others best bosom buddies, whilst we were in Macintosh hall under the supreeeemly insidious tutelage of the Heinous Dr. Royal Mackenzie. Awful chap, lazy eye. Never liked him. Never knew where he was looking. Sort of chills the soul that… ANYWAY, HA, PINTs. Pints of cider, never of beer. Beer’s make a man lose him self and become all weepy around the middle, like his flesh is sagging in a desperate attempt to run away from its master. BUT CIDER, cider like the Cider of this here Pint, the Cider of Plum Valley, is the stuff that makes a man! LOOK at me 53 and I could be 40. Could be 40, Maybe I am, Maybe I can just start saying ‘I am 40 world. Look at me, in my PRIME.’ OHHH prime, the only thing that makes a Sunday in the pub better is ordering a PRIME rib. HA, Ribs. I could make myself an Eve if I ordered this prime rib. HA just kidding, you can’t make a woman from a hunk of meat. Obviously, I mean HA, the idea. Imagine a person made from a rib. What’s that Barkeep…. YESSS barkeep I shall have two more pints, one for me; BARON VON DISSAPOINTED IN YOU. Ha just kidding THAT’s not my name. But you know that Barkeep.… See Jimmy the barkeep here is an old friend of mine. known him since my days at Eatlin Hall University, this pub used to be my local when I read English Lit-ah-ra-touree here, what was it… blimey… Thirty-so-odd years ago…. But yes one more pint of Plum Valley for me, and oh… Sorry old chap old buddy old friend, what was your name again…. Oh you Ne-ver told me… Well that’s ok, names are so superfluous I find, why have a name when you can have an EXPERIENCE, right Barkeep,… See friend I could use his name but Barkeep why its better!… What… oh no don’t tell me, id rather not know your name…. ANYWAY one pint of Plum Valley for me, and one of what ever my friend here is drinking. So we can make a toast. A toast to this Sunday! May it be Sundays for eternity. HA. Well, I guess I can’t make that toast now that I have said it to you. Its bad form to tell a toast to a friend before you both have a drink to hand. Bad luck it is. And we Bard’s, for that’s my last name. Why we believe in luck, both the good and the bad…. Why… oh because it pays to be superstitious. One never knows what might be real. And let me tell you. I’ve seen some things in my time that make a man question what is really there… ah your interested… I can tell from the look in your eye, well ASK NO MORE. I shall speak. HA! Once, when I was just in the budding days of my manhood I went with my family. The extended family. All 17 of us, up to the middle of nowhere in the highlands, it was quite near Glasgow.”

and there time ran out, as did this tale.

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a discovery of ancient poems

There was a time, when I, like so many who are youthful, took to writing poetry in order to escape MY FEELINGS. Granted being a relatively ‘late bloomer’ my late teens and early twenties, we hardly filled with the sort of experiences of angst that provide a strong footing for some good Sylvia Plath Poetry Realness.

oooohhhh Sylvia

I MEAN I WAS TOTALLY ANGSTY, it’s just I lacked a good deal of real world experience to know much of what I was speaking and while I spent a lot of time guessing at what ‘adult emotions’ were, I think I spent to much time watching Hollywood fluff pieces and I pretty horribly missed the mark as to the flavor of real emotions.

There are literally hundreds of APPALLINGLY bad poems hiding on my computer presently. Like wicked little word trolls I keep stumbling across as I read these gifts left to a future me from a long since past self. (I mean ever the rather tortuously bad ones I enjoy. I mean they are parts of me, my past, my life. I’m so glad to have essentially stumbled into all of these old words of mine.) See this quest began as I was trying to find a short story I wrote in college, but I have no idea where i saved in, (or if i even still have it) and all my folder have absurdly un-useful names such as FINAL-FINAL- THESIS DRAFT 3. you know the folder names of a boy/man living in Scotland and discovering that deadlines and due dates are not divine companions. My computer files are about as organized as the bowels of a hoarders den.

Honestly it looks organized

I’m semi-amazed that my computer files are in such a state, because they are immaterial, in a sense they feel as if they should be organized. But sadly they are truly a nebulous-quasi invisible mess of half started word docs, and a thousand drafts of every essay I have every written, pages of notes, and the wreckage of about 2000 ill attempted film scripts.

As I load the previews of some of the more esoterically named Documents like, DON’T DELETE FINAL FINAL 7, I have entered into a dialogue with a long forgotten self. So many of these poems, even if horribly written, explore the angst I was experiencing as I tried to come to terms with my rather apparent-to-every-one-but-at-times-myself gayness and gender. Lacking a community I felt I could really speak with, (which has more to do with my inability to speak about these issues, not the people around me) I took to writing them.

poetry by this guy.

poetry by this guy. 

NOW of course I remember in some sense writing all of these old poems, its just their purpose at the time was not to be read, it was to serve as a tool for helping me express my self. what is most haunting about it, is not what I say, so much as all the things I can see I was incapable of writing, even for my own eyes, and fingers, and sanctity of mind. The fear of naming my desires for instance was so strong, that it actually kept me from writing it. To name something is to define it, to think it was to be it. And of was I a master at self-subterfuge, refusing to acknowledge thoughts on my own faggotry in an attempt to cling to the vestiges of hetero/homo-normativity.

People Like the wondrous Maia B. were amazing at helping me come out of my shell... and for helping me style this look, which is. HAMAZING

People Like the wondrous Maia B. were amazing at helping me come out of my shell… and for helping me style this look, which is, HAMAZING. 

It’s not that I’ve ended up some where totally different from who I was then, the core of me is largely speaking the same, it’s just that I have begun to try and speak about the truth of myself, to at least myself, (if not others, especially Trouble and my therapist who are wonderfully encouraging) I sort of think and perhaps shall begin again this process of self-explorative poetry for a condensed period of time, and I shall leave these words, in hyper well organized files, until I am older still and can discover even more about myself in reflection.

BUT back to those poems…some of them I think are kind of cute and vaguely whimsical. There is an entire collection of poems i just discovered and forgot about writing where I took to imagining the lives of objects around me and providing explanations for their existence that were more in keeping with my ever present desire for the world to be a place filled with magical creatures rather than the agents of patriarchy. (Clearly these poems were written in the dark ages before Grindr)

In the spirit of sharing, here is a poem I wrote some years ago. I think it is of the utmost importance to write bad poetry. its liberating. Poetry is the conduit between language and the soul. It also does not have to make any sense. which is totally awesome in a world where we crave reason.

Ode to the Mile Markers

All those mile signs

That we leave hap-hazard

On the sides of our roads

68.7…. 68.8…..68.9…….

Forgotten and rather useless

they are

Like toothpicks

Thrown by giants

Into the earth

toothpicks

With the olives still on

Take

From

the dirty

Martinis

They ordered

In some celestial bar

To dull the pain

Of being

Alone.

And big

And really

Really

Close

To the sun.

to end it all here is a CUTE man reading Circe’s Power by Louise Gluck, which is a poem i love almost as much as I love watching this an STRETCH. OH MY GOD THOSE ARMS. AND WHEN HE STARES INTO THE CAMERAS EYE AT THE END. SWOON

What I’ve learned from death.

I recently lost a friend.

That makes it sound decidedly like I misplaced him. I shall try again.

Several months ago a friend of mine committed suicide. Several months ago, several full and pregnant moons. Not yet a hundred days, a thousand breaths.

Not long after a colleague died unexpectedly. August was also the anniversary of a dear friends passing. Thoughts of death hang in the air.

It is Autumn, a season for me which has always been marked by reflection. Being a child of the institutional educational system September feels much more like the start of the year to me, then January. As I watch the stars popup, crisp and early in the night sky, as I walk, the earth crunching beneath my feet as I tread on the dry and fallen leaves, as I wander the fields in morning fog pungent with the scent of rotting apples, a heady scent that moves about me like a vapor might, a scent that hugs me into feeling drunk, my thoughts are turned ever towards death.

Death in its expanded sense, death as in change, corruption, consumption, inevitability, fear, reality, seasonal, mine, theirs, his. I’m lost, I seek wisdom. I felt that writing out my thoughts might help collate them. Solidify them. Make them the body I can look at, probe, dissect, eviscerate for meaning. As if these words could become the bodies I could breath my dear friends life back into, These words are such a poor substitute for them but they are what I have.

Several months ago a friend of mine committed suicide. Last year a friend of mine died. All deaths are linked, when one person dies, they join others who have passed before him and I feel I can not speak of one loss with out all being present; death, the great unifier.

Mine. mīn/ pronoun “used to refer to a thing or things belonging to or associated with the speaker.”

I keep talking and thinking about him with this vague slant towards possession in my grammatical utterances. As if I know ‘own’ our friendship as I’m the only one left to have it. Our ‘friendship’ has become an object, a weight, something that I have, something that I carry. I speak and think of death and it is marred by expressions that use terminology and words that imply or state persons and relations as objects, possessions, things, that which is lost… our language, the phrases we use to talk about death, they seem stale. I don’t want to think of him, of our relationship as either an object or a possession. I want to think of him as… as… I’m not sure I know. My thoughts are occluded. It’s hard to see what is rage about him passing, what is fear about my own mortality, what is anguish about a culture whose very fabric, its language does not come armed with a lexicon of expressions to explore ones relationship to an experience such as death, and what is more theoretical, more textual, more about my relationship with me. I keep moving away from the real feelings to the abstract, to a place I feel safe, to distance myself from reality with words. I imagine this is, in its own way healthy.

Reflection. I seek reflection. Presently when I reflect on the language of death two things become salient points I want to address.

1) we speak not for the dead, but for ourselves. Death, especially when it is someone close to you is something that happens to us the living. Death is aftermath, death is the event that shocks us into remembering we are beings living within the fluid of time, death is waking up to the fragility of the world, death is longing without any hope of satiation. Death is something that only the living experience. When some one ‘dies’ that moment when life unbinds itself from the matter it has called a body that is not death. That must be something singular and hopefully beautiful, and unique, its some sort of probably bizarre mysterious magical event, some unique human fleshy experience, that is utterly ‘you’ the ‘dying one’s’ own experience. Something more like catharsis, or a state-change or freedom, that is not death. Death is a word we the living use to speak of void. We live amongst death. I live amongst death.

(Death is far different from dying also. I know dying can often be long and painful, but that moment, that almost infinitely small moment where life becomes un-life. Where thoughts cease to form, hearts no longer beat and lungs no longer sing, that moment, death, why the thought of it, brings to mind the music of a classical violin concerto played on a moon less night beneath the stars in some far of field of grains and wheat, heavy and expecting the harvest. It seems I want to reclaim death as a word from the clutches of heavy metal music and overly simplistic depictions of skulls and crossbones.)

(Sorry heavy metal music, I just don’t ‘get you’ at all. Maybe your brilliant, I just. Whatever, it’s a personal thing, I kind of hate you. But that’s not really the point of this conversation.)

2) When applied to the real world, this word is so wrapped up within a dialogue about what comes after ‘death’ specifically the spiritual dimensions of that ‘after’ that I end up tripped out on existential internal debates and forget to mourn. Oh the weight of death.

What is the word I should use to denote a state change. Death, seems so flawed, death seems to be a word that is all about my feelings, my experiences. I want a way, a word, to speak to him, and of him being gone. Dead does not work, it seems so final, and he lives so gloriously within my memory and the memories of many others. He comes to me in dreams. I don’t know how to speak of him. Perhaps it is enough to say that he is now lives within the fabrics of dreams, a resident of memory, a child of the ether.

Yet to depart from the language of DEATH and towards my experience, as a way of hopefully more fully interrogating the term I say: I’m angry. Which is an emotion I cling to for it feels safe, familiar, what underlies it, is something that scares me. It’s formless and ever present, it is the denial of justice, it is the cruel reality of the universe being not a place of equality but random and largely speaking grotesque movements. All of this, this culture, these words, are dressing we use to hide ourselves from the reality that life is accidental and that the fates are impartial to all of our protestations. I have no idea why he died, and the ‘why’ largely speaking is not particularly important to me.

What I mourn is his passing. I deliberately said passing.

Passing.

Passing,

Passing… It seems like a breath, a wind, a moment of cool air, a thought, ephemeral, transitional, almost infinitely small, the divide between living and dead. The dead, the dying, they pass, the living, do no such thing. We pull our hair, and scream, and cry and throw our lives into upheaval, ask a thousand questions and being creatures still made of flesh and blood, often forget the chaos that living through death can make one feel and we laugh, and get dinner, and cruise cute boys. We make jokes, we joke about death oft handedly, we judge ourselves, we smile, we drink, and we drink coffee. We do a bad job when it comes to collective grief. We judge ourselves for not grieving in the right way at every moment.

I’ve come back so quickly to this, words, again. Words. Death as the word only we the living use. I’m saying we, but I mean I. I don’t really know how other people process grief. I mean in a way I feel that happiness and perhaps love, are in a manner of speaking universal. But there is something about grief that feels personal, and vibrantly and differently hued every time.

(I miss him.) (and it tastes of tears)

My dear friend, my dear friends, though I don’t much believe there is anything beyond this fleshly existence, I hope your spirits are at rest, I hope your atoms have dispersed, I hope that all you are is everything you ever wanted life after death to be. What have I learned in death? That one death evokes all deaths, and that no matter how long ago, or how buried some one is, death the great equalizer, makes us remember them all. That longing for some one who has died defies logic. That death is a drug we the living take and feel oh so alive in its consumption. I can’t say what I’ve learned really. It’s not there to be rendered into words. Its emotions and experiences, mirrors, lenses, reflection, refraction, light. It’s mine, its multifaceted, it unfolds in complexity. It does not seek justification. It defies explanation.

In speaking of it, it talking around it, in trying to grasp it, in speaking my anger, in speaking my fear, in shouting inside the confines of my mind about the injustice about the failures of society, the failures of community, the failures of my community, in challenging my ability to pass judgment, in challenging my thoughts on salvation, I feel free. I feel I have escaped the shackles death has previously cast onto me. I have found my own road out in speaking to those people I am lucky enough to call my friends and family about how I am feeling. For it is ok in the wake of death to be selfish.

Death unravels logic. But this formless space, this place of fear, this place that death exposes, is only the embodiment of terror for I let it be. I slip out at night and walk the city streets where the trash blows besides me, ever my companion. For all the death and refuse around me, for all the injustice, for all the un needed drama. The world teems unexpectedly with life. And it is oh so much the material of miracles.

Life, I am terrified I squander you. Life, more precious than water, life which is but water. Water and fire and earth and air and spirit, Life. Life. You are chaos, you are primal, you are everything I wish to wed. As I step into Fall, I am off to make apple sauce. To take the flowers of summer, picked now as fruit and breath into them new life. To induce a state change, to boil, to package, to save, to consume.

To those that I have lost, though you are but dreams to me now, and what awaits the living, More Life. More life till death, more breath.