I share a café table in Redfern with a young man whose bitten nails are lacquered scarlet, or Hunter’s Pink, like a London bus, then roughly scraped at by his teeth. Let’s call him Dorian. His hands are large, pale and beautifully formed, their squareness implies both invention and practicality, his alabaster thumbs arc like Bacon’s. To him it is androgynous transcendence; to me it is purely transport with poetic nomenclatives, Monopoly’s real estate; the stuff of desolate, historical novels. It is Dickens sending his sons, cruelly burdened with ‘potential’, to Australia, Austen on A Mystery Tour, the Brontës looking for a rough gypsy or two. It is Blyton’s imperious ‘Parp-Parp’ taxonomy, Potter’s Puddle-duck’s paisley shawl. (The 328 bus to Chelsea, World’s End, ran aground here, its deluded shoppers shuffled through The Sales without a purse, or benefactor – but with grasping hands. Some unleashed their European grotesques – the less callous amongst them surprised themselves.) A man with cerebral palsy has fallen crossing a lane and crawls into its gutter, a local man helps him to his feet, leans him against a wall to regain his balance and checks his forearms and bare legs for injury. He hugs his rescuer as though he has pulled him from the sea. Heathcliff breaks from the man’s embrace, glowers and strides away, wolfhounds at his heels. Dickens’s sons gather after the fact. Dorian and I agree on, among other things, Plath’s delusions (her anglomaniacal brown study, sodden sheep, errant cottage garden romanticism, for which I too have a propensity) – how unfortunate they were for her, and how crucial it is to find someone with illusions as real as your own and make them flesh. (Vivienne Westwood described her 1965 ‘meeting’ with Malcolm McLaren as him being ‘a one-off. He was fascinating and mad, and it was as though I was a coin and he showed me the other side.’ Its thrall lasted fifteen years; at his 2010 funeral she wore a Gold Label headband, re World’s End unisex accessories, which stretched ‘Chaos’ across her forehead, re his mantra re cash, re her lost protagonist.) Dorian hints at a discreet deep disappointment. (He and his full-lipped, saffron and chrome-haired girlfriend parted two months ago.) Dispossessed urban seagulls levitate and resist above us like metamorphosing plastic bags and our other side’s intertwined other; mine has the blond shoulders, the flaxen fusilli, of the scrapped buffalo nickel, ‘Liberty’ on his flip side. (Horses bring their satin musculature to him, as I wake weighing words.) A worn meniscus rim, his proud man’s good soldier’s skin, flare at the Elysian edge of these feathered eclipses on Regent, just off Cope, beneath 2012’s Transit of Venus, re her night-sweat fevers, Westwood’s divine bustled cellulite, our hearts are high
and rocked silent.
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