Joey Awake Now
Some poems, right some poems. I'm a lover of poems. And yes, we lovers of poems must stick together. Don't mind me. Pardon? Glenn? Glenn? Glenn. It is nice to meet you, Glenn. You are thinking you are in luck. Because look, a strange old man has joined you at the bar. How fortunate you are this fine day. I beg your pardon? Indeed. The secret's out. I am indeed a man with English, how do you say Raul, issues, exactly, English issues. No, not for fifty years. Hoboken Italian now for fifty years. I'm English when there are wars. I was English when there were wars. Oh no you don't have to pretend you give a damn. You came here to write, my friend, then a sleepy old fool comes dropping by to tell you what it was like in his day. Well I'll tell you: I was extremely handsome. It took me seconds to go to the bathroom. End of story. Raul, the same for him and the same for me, he's being much too polite. English, you see, not like us. I'd have said Bugger off by now. Raul doesn't get that, 'bugger off' he thinks it's some kind of cool new vodka, don't you, Raul? Raul says he understands, he understands bugger off it's what I was afraid of, no secrets now, no secrets for the Brits, not from Americans Glenn, no secrets from Americans. The war? Ah-ha. Look at him, pen at the ready, like I could say some poetry. We lovers of poetry. What's so important in the world that you can't stop the ride a moment, open a little black empty book and remind the world you're blue? There's not a thing. Burning building? Nothing. Love of a lady? 'I am at work. Please ask her to wait in the lobby.' His eyes are glazing over, he's remembering something he's forgetting something. If you ask me, to tell you, Glenn, if you're sincerely truly going to, I may do so. I may tell you a thing or two, I wouldn't do so, I wouldn't—muchas gracias—I wouldn't do so, only it's Saturday. Not Saturday, Black Saturday. And in sixty years of rinso white Saturdays it never did find one to hide behind. You go through morning into afternoon and it's always sunny, Saturday, in rain or snow or storm who cares? you pass the hours, you're free and the crowd is free and the whistle blows a goal is scored, the long shot by a nose then you happen to glance at the sky and I say you I mean I . . . I say you I mean I, me riding on my bike and I saw this mass of planes in patterns they were their planes and with the sky so thick the light was weak, your hold on it was weak your life so far some kind of lucky break. They were everywhere and in the day, not in the night in the day like your worst fear suddenly figured it out and came. What's stopping us? I rode my bike straight home to tell my gran and I'm pedalling for my life I know they can see me up there! Hey Ralf shoot zat paper boy or he'll never stop! Never stop telling ze vorld on us . . . Raul's laughing at me. You're not? That's how it was. Personal, kind of. Felt you were in their minds. They were in our minds, pale types, munching schnitzel! Here well it's true they had thejaps but not here, they didn't have them out of a blue sky over the skyline on a Saturday. September 7th. What do you mean it's the 8th? The Saturday was the 7th, it wasn't the 8th. He's telling me. Where do you come from? Pardon? Say again what garden? Well-in-the-Garden? Oh there. Shredded Wheat's made there. That was the sort of place we thought we'd get to. Because we had to get to somewhere, we were bombed out on the first night of the thing. Or, we weren't bombed out precisely, me and my gran, she always believed what I told her, did my gran, Mrs Katherine Mabel Stone. Truth of the matter is, I had my own reason for getting out. It isn't a thing you know when it's happening. But you're young, you're wearing a wedding ring, we figure it out in time. You'll understand how it was if you give a damn. And if you don't give a damn it'll still be there a year or so anywhere you find me. Soon I won't be giving one either. Then you and I can give not a damn forever.
From The Sugar Mile by Glyn Maxwell. Copyright © 2005 by Glyn Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.