Steven Fowler & Tim Atkins

Secretum Meum: BOOK II

{Saintly Augustine & the ever modeste Francesco Petrarch are witnessed ambling a julian alp with ease, their minds elsewhere, deep in conversion...}

A.    Have you achieved saturation?

F. Like a nappy, just enough to speak to you.

A.    I have the talcum. Speak. Tell me everything.

F. Hold Onam inute! You say I boast of my speaking, as though I could hold it in my hand, like a boy pearl… Well the only words I claim is that I have never trusted it. Why should I be proud of reading many books, from which I have derived little learning but much distress of mind? You accuse me of seeking a town outside of London in fancy language when, as you went and admitted when jousting about the white puff powder, my chief torment is that my books are Balham to your Collier, they are all like dusted, because of the Talc, and not fatted, because of your kitchen. Burgers again, isn’t it? Can’t suffice to express ideas, a bit of beetroot in with the mince, as they say. And when you talked seriously about about my beautiful hair, with the straightrazor line etched in by tattoo, you almost made me laugh. Why are the hairdressers in my frogman’s with such bad hair? Why do they listen to trance music all day? Renting their chairs like mercenaries... So I have put my hope in this wretched mortal quiff, as it swishes over my face, which daily warns me of its frailty? Heeu forbid! I admit that when I was a pleasure in showing off my fine frame and licking down my hair, but such vanity disappeared with Thrones, episode one, season two! The book is called the Kings, it will be written, and mark my words, in two years, everyone will have this cut.

A.    Gene Thrones played baseball, if I recall rightly. Are you alluding to him? And why be cross? In my secret book appeared these initials. Did you explain them to me? In a toga? I was dreaming. When I look at your hair across the centuries I am thinking of becoming a vegetarian. I love your language, Francis. As much as this sandwich. Sing me something winning.

F. Were it so! Were it that I was as strong as you! Hear the crows north of the wall start croaking, wait until the wolves start to get into my answers. Like Lawrence, Kind of earthly Eigner, bound to my home like a tortoise. He pays the price for clear vision. I do not like to say what I have learned to say about able men, lest I should marrow my tongue with such harsh nasty harshness – “slowly    I have sometimes heard my nose click / as if some naked siftings bared themselves”

A.    And so, who, if any, is greater than Larry? The thing you’re after / may lie around the bend / of the nest, even, he said (or how read it) / line after line // given one look // refresh the eyes / against the abyss. It is a buffoon who calls Walt Whitman rubbish just because he made some of it up. In the jacket of a rabbit! 

F. Come on, I am not if anything avaricious, I don’t care about what kind of chair I’m in, and I can’t be absolved by training. This is not to say I don’t heed your advice, it’s just, if I am to not walk in footsteps because I cannot walk, I may as well wheel my own way. 

A.    Yours is the list of a marble. Expertise in trousers is improved often by sucking. You must decide for yourself how many others you will enter for awards, but it is indubitable that in the whole population of your region, in which you are after all but one, there is such a poverty of language. Is the poem to be unlike a duck’s ass and not admit to either opening or closing?  This is not only the words as isolated monads, but their ordering.  Empathy must have moderation, otherwise it dissolves distance and does away with itself. Everything should be taken for itself, but not too much, otherwise it’s lost. Any wall—flat or curved—is just there standing up. I am not in it for the parking space—and despair is the worst of all evils. When I learned I would never be able to talk again, I was speechless.

F. I’m not inhuman enough to be unmoved by concern for my friends, especially those who are endeared to me by their virtue and merit. Some I admire, some I venerate, some I love, some I pity. On the other hand I’m not so high minded as to ruin myself for my friends - I have to think of my own future, provide a competence for old age, and hence combine some material concern with my cultivation of the muses. This is why I am the squatting poet... I mean with weights, weightlighting ... forget it ...

A.    …Which strengthens the kidney—if you come up, slowly. For we must make a new world through a surfeit of the social.  And—of course—love of language and love of each other. I wouldn’t want to start a punch-up in an empty room, although several in this spaceship would. The direct observation & the direct thought, the language & its derive. Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?—to a dead man in a toga.  How can one build a tepee out of concrete? Or an avant-garde from an academy? 

F. Humbly though I try to be it seems I keep emerging as hubly or humby. I realise I am still childish, as a man, and as a poet because my problem with those who start a punch over in an empty tent like their fights metaphorical, or even worse, verbal, where as I still like mine actual, and would happily join them in starting up their cars if they really meant to ramraid each other, rather than metaphorically ramraid the local curry’s, behind peoples backs. But one shouldn’t make a living with one’s fists, even if it tempting…

A.    Your points are sharp ones, senor. But the arena we find ourselves in should be no place for gouging. It is true that when the medication wears off, for some, there is an increase in the night turns. Office doors open on the darkest of thoughts. If poetry is a greasy spoon then very often the greasiest get to the top—or the strongest suckers—but then everything is poverty. Perhaps we all start off with a cheap seat at the dog—young, dumb & full of summum bonnum, but a couple of encounters with a cactus (the plant, not the poet) makes such priapic rambling dangerous as well as stupid.  It isn’t, after all, anybody’s individual alphabet.  How long into the future was it that Arthur Rimbaud said that all the new encounters were to be had with the women?  I would love to be at that picnic—instead of working in insurance.

F: I do not want the womb, just enough warmth to cook with. Abundance can make only so many Hollo’s. The rest of us must cave in, and admit, there are ghosts here! We need awad of money awards.

A.    A thought goes into the balloon. A high noise or book-sound comes out.

F. I wish I could wish for nothing! But I am dragged on by a perverse in a habit! I feel a giant mole in my soul, which eats nothing but coal. And that is not a nice feeling. It makes me feel sad, as though my balloon were in a vice and it was not just air leaking out. But blood. Like in Step Hen King’s It.

A.    Man knows that his reign has no death, that a universe boasts a beginning. This is the difference between us & the chimps. But which is which? My best advice to you Francis, is to move to California and take up surfing—or the womanly arts. You look so wan in your meatballs and dungarees. You’d look cute with a suntan.

F. You think it was nothing that I tried to stop doing poems and went to sea and nearly drowned in that massive wave and let Patrick Swayze chase me and went to the woods and invested in property in Bulgaria around the boomtime of 2007 and tried to live there but got bored and tried to live without a wife! And I am accused of being womanly and ambitious?!

A.    Stung like bees. Antsy & hellish! Floating like almanacs! High pink with entitlement.

F. Yeh. uh I thought you said ‘ you mortals renonce many things not because yu despise them but because you despair of attaining them. dont hope to hide that you hate the trouble of seking them. dont hope to hide behind a figer, as the saying goes. this flight from the cities, this longing for the woods of which you are so proud, doesnt excuse you, its just a shift of blame. all kinds of roads lead to the same ggoal, and believe me, though you have left the trodden highway, you are trying to reach on a byway those ambitious ends you claim to despise. your insistence on free time, uour solitetde, your incuriosity about normal human occupations, your studies, your whole purpose is glory, all prove your ambiton, but lets get on. i wont mention gluttony, your free of that. and wrath is no serious fault of yours. but there are more dangerous passions for you.’ but it turns out that wasn’t what you said and I had heard that in my dream and then I spoke to you and made what you said into what I dreamt! And that’s probably what I wanted to hear! ah, I am guilty of the sin of hearing what I want to hear!

A.    Really! & you, so sockless in sandals, no less. Perhaps I have been guilty of teaballs & lubricant—perhaps I have. And yet what but a spider can prove it? A good fuck is like a blancmange, in the poem, or suchlike, bukkake to a cow girl or cow boy. I rest my case. I always wanted my thoughts to be no more and no less than this—a massage in a brothel—sent to everybody. Or Eleni. Even so, there’s a book lack in Ongar. And the last time I looked there were no tyrants in my pants.

F. I know Eirini but no Eleni, and I know a good hot bucake when I see one but what is bukakke? repetition? stuttering? I am cold too but that doesn’t mean I pour boiling water on my eyes. Good grief, what more dangerous can remain?

A.     Three things. (a) the instant (b) the ground beneath your feet (c) unlimited compassion . If we have these three things we have no need of Marx or Tupac, Dogon or Zappa.

F. Sometimes the instant Marx is so great I grieve I was nae born insensible. I’ll wear you, to it, to a function and sometimes I feel I wish I was a stone bone, to not slip back into the black difficulties of being sad and black, and watching the stripper pass by like a tube holding a brass ring to stop right herself from falling.

A.    When you are with me, Frankie, I feel like you are playing by my side, with a hankie or banjo. Are you a toy poet? If you aren’t I might find you alluring. And yet if you are, you won’t be welcome at high table, smelling of linseed oil, protruding from the manipulation, swarming in a pendant mass. Real men don’t say “I don’t know” – they blow things up or they glamorize violence—and leave the real work to women…

F. A toy poet is first a toy boy, because that rhymes. What violence is left to save me?

A.    None will. Soap might. Non-violence is not pacifism. I am talking about an active stance that only the courageous take.  Let me ask you--how many poets does it take to incite revolution? Nobody knows, because none ever have—except in their imagination. The answer’s neither Melville nor Hawthorne.

F. I have read them so often I almost fear to bore him. I have also known the violence of the brave poetry, it does not bore but still I sleep.