Stasis at Oxford 130

1 May 2018

Today is a good day to die in a freak garden accident: fall back
onto the spikes of a giant agave, say, & expire in its healing
embrace. I’m 12,000 miles adrift from what I used to call home,
mainlining a long macchiato. A street-kerb café: an old woman
sits two seats to my left, her bun in an eight-legged spring clasp. Blue
plastic tarantula, clamped to the back of her head—or that thing in Alien,
sucking off John Hurt’s face. A blonde in a yellow bikini smiles up at me.
When in doubt, offers her perma-tanned thigh, make lists. Enquires
her left breast: Are you ever truly satisfied? Five new ways to achieve
orgasm
. Are these connected? Sure, breast & leg, but lists & lust?
I’m in doubt. Make a list. Recent addictions: weather reports,
Marmite, coffee, misery. You see, today my marriage broke up—
or was it yesterday, last month, a few years back—the moment after
I said ‘I do’? I open up Cosmo bikini girl: read an article on how
to de-tox. So easy: starve until you hallucinate, then drink a week’s-worth
of pond-weed. Maybe it’ll de-tox your body, but that’s not enough,
I need it to nuke my mind. Ten years. No wonder my brain’s peeling
out of my skull—it’s a lot to purge in one go. But this city’s
made me learn how to drink really slow, I’ve majored in reverse
caffeine velocity. Too much & the pavement comes up to hit me.
Too little & the pavement dribbles away. So I’ll have another, long
& strong, no sugar, definitely no spouse to go. Top breakup bands:
Keane Cowboy Junkies Everything but the Girl Coldplay

Noon. This city is a corpse, ants running along its length. Today
tastes of grey, not yellow like Mondays used to. The tinge
of my world before love got to it. I remember when we coloured in
the days of the week, rainbow, rainbow, rainbow. So, I’m trying
to find the yellow again, I’m just taking apart my brain,
to see if it can be fixed. Brains look like cauliflower—
would they taste like one? I tilt my head, hear the patter
of tiny synapses. No wild brine to smell. Actually, not so much
like a cauliflower—more like jellyfish. Rhopilema hispidum,
a giant grey light bulb washed up on the beach. Somewhere I read
jellyfish don’t have brains, instead their whole skin is a ‘nerve net’.
That’s how my skin feels today, an electric web, I can light whole worlds,
I can hear through walls. Across by the ATM, I tune in to the queue.
One man is telling another that his dog just died. Ah well, if you’re gonna go…
that’s the way to go. Just four hours where he was a bit … unusual
.
That woman sitting opposite, she’s thinking I cannot find
a way to mend the breeze
. She looks at me like she’s watching
a documentary, and I’m some country she’s never been to. I know
how she feels. Last night, my taxi driver’s name was Jack.
Chatty Jack. He smelt like the ex before last—same strange twist
of scent, the melody’s been left out, only the bass notes boom.
Jack’s in love, ten weeks so far. She lives in Hong Kong, has a daughter,
no visa, he’s giving her $6000 a month, hopes she’ll come over
for good. She wants babies, but at 32 he reckons he is getting too old.
His mother is ‘appalled’, he’s not sure, thinks it’s for real, but I can tell
he’s faking it for every fare. He’s got nothing, Jack. Like, I’m an expert
in love—a used car with one careless lady owner—Fiat, Subaru,
Chrysler Jeep, Holden Commodore. Loss is a cockroach that barrels
to the back of the throat, & sticks there. We start off as plump balloons,
end up as rags of rubber, lying on the floor. 3.15pm. This city.
How it thickens, its arteries clotted by cars. Today I woke
as if I hadn’t killed my laptop the night before, & then the memory
came rushing in, filled me with cold green ocean. Sleep makes me feel
like yesterday’s life is part of my violent dream. Waiter! There’s a face
in my coffee. I don’t want this one, bring me another. Grief gives you
a glassy look—a veneer which stops germs getting in & poison
escaping. You see yourself in a photograph, wonder when
you got trapped in its frame. It’s like looking through the wrong end
of your mind, seeing Earth’s dark side instead of the sun.
Recent discovery in space: a planet with four suns.
Dr Chris Lintott, University of Oxford, tells BBC News
—it’s absolutely not what we would have expected—
but that’s where he’s wrong, the unexpected happens all the time,
always has. Planets sprout suns. Orgasms are achieved. My head
is a caulifish, growing jellyflowers. Time for some brain DIY.
I’ll borrow some knives, sharpen up for surgery. Look at that—
daytime moon. One crazy bird, knows she can’t hang around
any more, she must fly behind clouds, without a map, with nothing
to lose but rainseeds, & I’ll be left behind in the hollering dark,
mopping up my rhopilema, making it into trifle, which will get up
& dance with me, do the cortical waltz. One two three, one two
three, three—to—none. List of favourite proverbs:
can think of only one, don’t even know how to say it.
Mōzhe shítou guòhé. Crossing the river by feeling the stones.
But the river’s getting deeper, stones are crumbling.

I’m rushing headlong to nowhere. I want to be an ant,
they live in nomadland, don’t care how many suns it has.
Three—two—one? 5.35pm. All those ants on the freeway,
they’re heading home. Someone tell them: wherever they left it
this morning, it won’t be there anymore.

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