Silence Sits Better by Roberta Francis

SILENCE SITS BETTER

Sometimes I can’t see it coming, but It's still there.
It tugs my hand on the street and watches.
It’s a silence. A grating glance from
A Caliban that cuts the sun in two
And covers me in shadow.

This time outside the Wetherspoon's
The monsters looked past my fluidity to the
Little man with the silver beard,
Carrying a folded paperback and
Wearing  sandals.
His companion is taller, and they look so out of place
In this, murky, dark, London Street.
There’s a line of coats,
Ten stiff green bottles snorting about the weather,
The football and another cancelled bus.
Their top-dog, a haystack of a man, hugs his leather coat
And the word queer slips from his lips.
The man with the silver beard looks scared and I am too.
It could all ignite in a second.
Discretely I stare at the haystack and his long drooping moustache.
It sparkles under the moonlight now the Sun has gone
I wish I could tear it from his lips
But sometimes silence sits better.



Roberta Francis is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the Open University.  She is a spoken word poet/novelist and is currently finishing her first novel. She has been published in the York Literary Review, Spontaneous Poetics, Off The Coast, and Spoken Word Anti-Hate Anthology.

On writing by Rishi Dastidar

ON WRITING

Don't write what you know.

Because you know it. And where’s the fun in regurgitating that? If people bought exam scripts between covers someone would have worked that out by now, and captchas would be a way of life not an annoyance.

Write what you don't know.

Because you’ve got a mostly empty brain. Fill it.

Because you’ve got a definitely inflated ego. Tamp it down.

Because you’ve got a planet-sized dose of vanity. Satisfy it not with punches or speed or good fucking, but with the tingle of knowing that you’ve made something that didn’t exist before, and now it’s made an eyeball twitch, a heart flutter, someone breathe faster.

Words are bio-mechanical FX pedals disguised as language.

Write what you should know but don't.

Like what it feels like to sleep on the surface of the sun.

To free dive into the nearest ocean of bread sauce, and emerge again, alive.

To fall through the atmosphere at a velocity which renders consciousness a mere footnote to your being – before the cord snaps you back into the now, where you will find that you can live again, if you’re humble enough to trust those you love, and tryst with those who might destroy you, because even in the moment of your destruction you will learn something about yourself too.

There are no tips to writing this of course, apart from being brave enough to be alone, outside of yourself and others; strong enough to go through life armed only with your skin; and always using a cheap notebook, because you will be writing lots, and expensive paper is a Veblen good only bought by people who say they are writers but aren’t.

Write what you will never know.

Like how it would have turned out if you did actually have the courage to ask her to kiss you that night.

Or if you’d punched that guy like you should have done when he started racially abusing you outside a club in Amsterdam on a stag you shouldn’t have gone on.

Or if you’d voted and in doing this small act of civic duty, you actually triggered the Butterfly Effect to activate an alternative timeline so that in 2022 World War 3 didn’t break out.

It isn’t wrong to dream. It is wrong to be scared of dreaming.

Write knowing that what you know isn't actually what you know, just the appearance of knowing it.

What does any of this matter? Nothing of course. Life is a terminal condition, someone told me today on social media, and they are right; and while I am minded to tell you to believe it, that is only the pity in me talking, as I have been overlooked for yet another award, another virtual handshake from someone who doesn’t know me, all so I can feel like I’m a *writer* and you know, fuck that because that it is getting everything the wrong fucking way round, like the approbation is more important than the act of putting a disordered world into some sort of frame so someone else, who you’ll never meet in space and time, feels less alone, more likely to live than to give up on the whole fucking chase of this game. A story – I was reading in Berlin once, one of those cool arty venues that you stumble across if you’ve been brave enough to go into a courtyard, and it was November and freezing, and I was the only person in there with trousers that covered my ankles, and I read a 20 minute poem for only the second time ever, and after I’d finished and come off stage to silence, and went to get a drink, the guy behind the bar was crying, and asked for the copy of the poem I’d read from and for me to sign it, because I’d moved him unbearably. I should have quit then as my writing *career* will never get better than that, I wish you that kind of success once, just once.

Write to know.

About the world. About you. About others. About the stuff you give a damn about. About the stuff you don’t.

About justice, time, being good, being bad, how to life a better life, how to leave it well.

About where to find the god of your choice, which generally is on the N98 about 2.48AM on a Friday morning. Don’t ask me why, it just is.

Just write.

Just write. It’ll be wrong, first time, second time, seventeenth time. What does that matter?

You are writing for you. You are writing for the world.

The two sometimes coincide and overlap. And if they do, you get rich.

JOKES. You don’t get rich. But who cares? You’re not a banker.

Just write. Just write. Just write.



Rishi Dastidar’s poetry has been published by Financial Times, New Scientist and the BBC amongst many others. His debut collection Ticker-tape is published in the UK by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018.  A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he is also chair of the London writer development organization Spread The Word.

Buy Rishi's book

Love and Honour by Izzy Posen

LOVE AND HONOUR

“Mmmm, this is some good meat!” Jasmine remarked as she returned her fork to her plate ready to dig in again as soon as her mouth makes some space.

Her lover, Chris, was sat across the small, round table, his knees enveloping hers. “He was a good man,” he said with a nostalgic look in his eyes, staring at the two flesh-covered ribs lying just in front of him.

“So lovable,” she responded after swallowing a particularly chewy piece of the smoked meal. “I miss him already. I don’t know how I’ll manage to cope once he’s completely gone!”

“Well, let’s not worry about that now. We have good memories and tasty meat. Let’s make the most of him while he’s still with us.”

He grabbed one of the ribs and broke off a chunky piece. Wrapped in lettuce he dipped it into the small bowl of BBQ sauce situated halfway between him and her.

“You know,” he said after several minutes of silent eating, “a friend of mine told me today something really shocking. Apparently in the West they leave their dead to rot in the ground. Eww!”

“God forbid! That’s so depraved!” She pushed away her plate and looked angrily towards Chris. “Did you have to tell me this whilst I’m eating? I lost my appetite now, thank you very much!”

He regretted bringing it up. She was right; that is a fairly revolting thought. All day it had been bothering him and he hasn’t been able to take it off his mind. The picture of placing someone to disintegrate in mud would have disturbed him at any time. But it especially sickened him now, given his own recent loss.

Chris’s dad, David, had just passed away a couple of weeks earlier. He and Jasmine found it very difficult to deal with it, but they found solace in the honour that they could give to his body. They tenderly cleaned him and decorated him and lovingly stored him away. Of course they miss his smile, his positivity, his energy. But at least they would still see him daily - at least for the near future. They calculated that he’d last for at least 5 months if they were sparing.

Jasmine was visibly shook by what she had just heard. “That’s disgusting!” she kept on repeating. “Why would anyone do this to a human being, let alone a loved one?”

“I always knew that they were morally depraved in the West. If that’s how they treat their dead, they probably don’t treat their living ones much better.” He had lost his appetite too. But he wouldn’t leave any meat uneaten - not his dad’s meat.

He finished and put the remainder of her portion back in the freezer, next to where the head, arms, one leg and some remaining ribs of the corpse were stored.

They retired to their room for the night.

After exchanging some anecdotes of their respective days at work, they managed to distract themselves from the thoughts that had so disgusted them earlier. She put her arm around him and lovingly kissed him on the lips. With soft, tender strokes his fingers fondled her left nipple, lightly stimulating them as he goes back and forth, up and down, round and round.

“You know what,” he said, groping her breast as he talked. “I am so lucky that we do not live in the West.”

She opened her eyes, as if emerging from a pleasant nap. “What do you mean?”

“I wouldn’t be as lucky to have you if we lived there.”

“Why not?”

“They disapprove of romantic father-daughter relationships there.”



Izzy Posen is a student of Physics and Philosophy at the University of Bristol. He likes to think about moral and normative reference frames and the philosophical absurdities that arise from shifting perspective. He sometimes expresses these thought experiments in short pieces of fiction.

Check out Izzy's blog

DEAD HEAD by Tom Bland

DEAD HEAD

One photo immediately drew
my
attention from the plethora
of the forensic collection
on his bedroom wall collated like a collage
but too messy to be artistic in any academic sense.

Suddenly

I realised it was signed by Anton LaVey, who most scholars believed
lied about his SFPD forensic photography job.
Douglas still believed saying, “But look at the way LaVey frames the head highlighting
the essential element of the golf ball wedged into the forehead.”

He had purchased the photo
from the eBay seller,
Dragon Eyes Tooth Lore, which somehow made
me doubt it was a true LaVey original,

but I held my tongue, slightly
chewing on my teeth to stop any sound emerging.

Douglas seemed, in the words
of the man at the bus stop talking into his phone about the plumber
he recently hired to unblock the toilet of his otherwise pristine Italian
restaurant on Monmouth Street/of shit wrapped up in the Sunday
newspapers –

“a nice fella” –

who found the situation unusual enough to be
amusing, pulling out soaking/stained pictures/words/notations
of/on politicians and celebrities: he wasn’t a man of names,
he just plunged
the pipe free of obstruction.

I had to do it

(that quiet intense excitement
gripped my senses, without question, “don’t ask why!” -
I said
to my therapist - “nothing prepares you for these moments!”):

I drew with a felt-tip,
over the surface
where the golf ball
was jammed into his forehead,
making it into a third eye, the
look of horror on his face …

“Did you regress” …  “Did you accept sin” … “Consciousness
makes us too conscious” … “To be overwhelmed” … “Forget the name” … “What age
are you” … “In this moment” … “The name” … “The number” ...

He grabbed hold of my wrist throwing the felt-tip
across the bedroom, marking the other wall behind us with a wobbly line.

In a practical psychoanalytic workshop on the inner child,
one person left at lunch time, telling no one: I
wanted to know
what made her legs walk all by themselves, taking the rest of her to the tube.

“I was mostly silent as a kid,” I said as an opening which was also
a closing. “What can we say about silence?”
“I guess
there’s the feeling.” “Just one? Or multiple?”

I thought of my friend’s
text where he described “feeling empty with nothing,” as if nothing was its own
contradiction slapping you in the face, like the
old buffoon routine
practiced for years on Rue Vieille Du Temple in Paris
before civilisation crept in.

“You have defaced it!” he provoked
glaring at me as if the photograph was erupting as if

I had defaced the man, but in my brain, there was no such thing as a golf ball.

THE PAST WAS DEAD EVEN WHEN IT WAS NOW,

a Zen buddhist made his pupil transcribe the strangely
stale words, which Alan Watts quoted in one of his books entitled
something
like, The Insecurity of Wisdom, and years later,
the saying appeared on a mug photographed in the hand

of a cute 19 year old goth flashing

his prick,

which his ex
placed online
with the single word,

REVENGE,

across
the image.

Photo by Karolina Urbaniak


Tom Bland is the author of The Death of a Clown published by Bad Betty Press.

The Strop by Matthew Caley

THE STROP

          and the strop-razor
against my testicles then
grazing my perineum
as might make an initiate
draw in their very breath but
I see Countess Dolingen
               of Gratz
pining over a corpse in
the Schlosspark Mausoleum

          as The Id pines for pleasure.
And while the razor is blunt
my mind is sharp with thoughts of

          Comptesse Dolingen of Gratz
as the filter-elms turn green,
the people dappled-green on the Alexanderplatz
almost on the verge of love.
             
There is no such word as ‘can’t’



Matthew Caley's sixth collection Trawlerman's Turquoise is forthcoming from Bloodaxe in September, 2019. He describes it as 'the book that will secure my future obscurity'. He's read everywhere from Galway to Novi Sad, from the National Portrait Gallery to Wayne Holloway-Smith's living room.

His work can be found here.

JUDITH BEHEADING HOLOFERNES by Serge ♆ Neptune

JUDITH BEHEADING HOLOFERNES

Peach-peeled morning hangover / wake up! / A bed encrusted with sodden blood / I cannot love you / without / the travails of us being with one another / hair damp in nightsweat / like dew on a harvested cabbage / these rows of unbrushed teeth / the bannister my tongue clings on to. / As if / made to be cinders / the brush of morning on our skins / heats us like charcoals. / I left wings / of scratches on yr back / to let you soar. / Cheerful toad in a safevest / a mosaic of dirt shows beneath the ears / and all the way down yr neck / the rugged edge where the cut happened. / Upside-down shoes / like a scald in reverse which runs under-skin. / Tea leaves stained the white table / the half opened metal tin from Fortnum & Mason. / Oh, my schoolbell love / my 20 carat piece of gold / how lovely to hypothetically / extract yr heart out / merely with my teeth / yr severed head / next to me / to cuddle with / in a last / self-harming / & heartbroken statement



Serge ♆ Neptune is a London-based poet and translator. His work has appeared in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Strange Poetry, and Grinding Poetry.

twitter: @mermanpoet

Survivors by Setareh Ebrahimi


SURVIVORS

There is no poetry in a life that was born
without love
and suffered till it died like an animal.
I try to feel as lucky as my family
tell me I am for not being war-torn,
rather than guilty.

How can we be grateful for things
not experienced that still haunt?
These images of brown people
turned ghosts by ash and fallout,
the sight of their blood the only sign
they’re alive,
is a cultural whip to keep us on our toes,
their mouths silent, too familiar Os.

Amongst the mundanity of life
with its bashful, everyday sufferings
space must be made in the consciousness
for every worthless existence
and potential Einstein
that was run over by an ice cream van
or had a heart attack masturbating.

Scrolling through the news shows me
government brutality in my own country,
someone’s cranium unable to contain its blood,
then a Cosmopolitan article,
’12 Things About Missionary That Men Love’.
A reporter recently confessed
that women are still having sex
in places reduced to ground level and dust,
unable to grow.

So morbid curiosity for the rest follows,
periods, childbirth, menopause,
perhaps someone near a bombsight
is plucking eyebrows or rouging lips
like liberated concentration camp victims.
In this moment we are survivors.
We don’t talk about the dead amongst us,
or millions of parallel fibres.



Setareh Ebrahimi is an Iranian-British poet who lives in Faversham. She released her debut pamphlet, In My Arms, from Bad Betty in 2018, and regularly performs poetry live, most recently featuring at Words at Waves at Harbour Books in Whitstable.

Check out Setareh's website 

Found in a Phone Box by Tim Kiely


FOUND IN A PHONE BOX

I

Twins! Both New in Town!
In and Out Calls,
Water-Sports,
Sauna Yoga,
Kettle Balls,
Short-Wave Radio Assembly and
Krav Maga.
Call now and make us do things.

II

No-op cissex white boy
wants
your sickness
wants
your normalcy.

III

Work part-time,
get paid full-time,
fulfil no-time,
regard this time,
there’s only this time,
be left with this time,
call now for time.

IV

Body to body massage.
Muscle to muscle massage.
Cell to cell massage
(phone-sex not included).

V

Samantha is not genuine.
The hair is fake. The tits are fake.
The conversation is so fake.
She knows that you want fake baby.
Call now and experience deep fake.

VI

You want blue sports coats?
You want perverted Rolexes?
You want it from a husky Texan?
Baby we have got you,
Like the Satanic Deep State Globalists
have got the US Government,
they’re comin’ for ya,
they’re comin’ for all of us!

Call 13-09-90
feel dirtier
           than you’ve ever felt.

Photo by Tyrone Lewis

Tim Kiely is a criminal barrister living and working in London. His poetry has been published in the 2019 anthologies, Everything That Can Happen, from the Emma Press, and Poets Versus Homelessness, from Tonic Sta Press. 



A Sketch from the Citadel by David Roden


A SKETCH FROM THE CITADEL 

Post-induction, she had them buckled and hooded. Their mouths seeped through ball-gags and wet strips of cloth.

The concubines had returned to their distant quarters. She was back at the Processing Yard where drugged internees were decanted over the cavernous staging area. She saw them always from a great distance, as through a long tunnel. Even in their inert state, she felt they expected something of her.

His straitjacket prolapsed red across white, petals and coils, a sour stink of stomach acids and excrement. The way he cradled his viscera so tenderly; the way blood-flecked saliva bubbled until he shook. She removed his gag, shrugged off her short silk gown, put away the gutting knife, allowing the miracle of his tongue to sting. 

He rose to the occasion, extended a cooling body. She convulsed as he died, aware of the chained eyes of the inductees egging her on; learning to appreciate her.

They had lived beyond the black bulwarks as mothers, fathers, lovers, students, artists, bureaucrats, thinkers; now reduced to anonymous toys - Citadel carrion, as she had been once. Yet she craved their attention and more. Power in the Outside was anonymous and dispersed. In the Citadel it accrued into spectacle then mutated into something else.

She relished all the contradictions this visibility entailed. For today, she appeared to them in well-fed, sore and scabbed flesh. She wanted to understand what it was to inexist. They could help each other out.

That night, she had phoned in another team from a nearby arsenal. They journeyed through the sinuous tram-shafts, burrowing in ancient catacombs webbed with gantries and girders in a substructure of pure imperviousness, Primary Matter. 

The two male concubines touched her tentatively, afraid to hurt her until ordered to. But they soon got the hang of snagging breasts in teeth, pinching, licking and raking, before they slipped into her with the modesty of their kind. The women kissed and cut, leaving her red-burning, wet and angry.

The condemned, at least, would appreciate the incongruity while the Clock Guards - heavy industrial automata with a minimal regard for human anatomy - beat a select few into red pap. They killed slowly yet were indefatigable once the order was passed. This instructional process always seemed about to plumb her capacity for horror but never exceeded it. 

At her panoramic window, she stared out across the winding tunnels and the minatory prows of Black Ships floating on Void Winds between the Dolorous Cities, rearing thunderheads from the Citadel’s prime substance. The Ships waited to drink her as they waited to drink them all, before the entire assemblage halted, screaming its insolent prayer at the final emptiness. She was changed utterly. On the Outside she had never wielded power or appreciated how it damned its possessor. Now it was a weapon for that which waited across light centuries of glacier, under the collated facsimiles of former galaxies.  

The Clock Guards stumbled out of pools of blood mash and splintered bone, gauche as baby crabs. One day, she would order them to pick her apart, then to deconstruct themselves, claw out their synthetic muscles and camera eyes. She would tell the condemned to watch carefully. It would not be justice. There would be too much pleasure in it, and death would be but a hesitation before the Ships.

And perhaps this alone bothered her. If perversion was the rule, where was she? What could she do, who came from nowhere and would never return?

From the Outside, the Citadel is finite, local, secreted in a waste quarter of every city: a baroque town house reserved for silent ritualists, a fortress, residue of a defunct police state, a chateau crumbling in the heart of a decaying steel works. Nervous magistrates concoct paper misdirections to ratify the internees’ disappearance, implicating them in corruption, theft, prostitution or child murders. It doesn’t matter if they are punished justly, only that the greater mass believes it. Yet from the Citadel, the Outside is irretrievable. An idiot loneliness.


David Roden is a philosopher and writer interested in alternatives to being human. His book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human was published in 2014. His experimental prose work has been published in Gobbet, Dis Magazine, Surfaces and Sunk Island Review.


Blind Date by Roberta Francis


BLIND DATE
 
I tried so hard not to wear them
stuffing the glasses inside my fleece.
A jailed throat so full of phlegm.
 
My slip of a coat hiding steams
Of black-ink on the shirt I had to wear.
Her and the ugly sister smirking
 
Their mess brushed across my cheeks.
All I could do was fumble through torn tissue,
And fix my eyes on the grey slate.
Foul words to break me
 
Opened their mouths they swallowed my face.
Tug at my hair like an unwanted doll,
Forced to the floor, blot becomes blood
Heels splinter glass eyes turn to mud.



Roberta Francis is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the Open University.  She is a spoken word poet/novelist and is currently finishing her first novel. She has been published in the York Literary Review and Spoken Word Anti-hate anthology.



INSOMNIA by Dominic Lyne


INSOMNIA

Here we go again,
sat alone
in front of a notebook.
The flat settled down for the night,
everyone asleep but me.
I hear my boyfriend move in bed,
most likely stretching out, 
reaching
but only finding space.
Gripping my pillow
he dreams it’s me he’s hugging.
Actually,
scrap that,
he’s dreaming of me fucking him,
but the only thing I’m fucking is my patience.
My cock agrees with me and out of spite
shows me how easily it can sleep.
It dreams of fucking my boyfriend,
together they cum in dreamland.
I don’t even get to watch.
Brain censored
like Tumblr in 2019.

If I knew the key to sleep,
I would follow the rules,
write a poem that rhymes,
but that would be a cliché
like a French guy that mimes,
the white stripes of his tight fitting top
taut over his muscles.
I could get lost ripping it from his skin…
Snorting it clean of its lines,
I push the guy into the black void that’s left.
Even a quick daydream is torn open,
spitting me back to the awareness that
my cigarette lies smouldering on my groin.
Fucking Marlboro,
not content at shortening my future,
it wants to sabotage my present.
Sorry,
I don’t need that kinda shit,
and to think I happily feltched smoke out of its ass.

I blew that smoke up God’s ass.
Stole the occasional lick,
hoping my tongue would tingle His rosebud into bloom,
watered by my saliva.
Only I’m like an ant trying to fuck a body
lying naked on the grass in the summer sun.
My un-consented kiss on His butt
is punished by my continual existence;
living face up,
mouth open for the next ball of shit
He needs to evacuate from His divine bowel.
I’m not the only one.
One God,
two billion cups.

I won’t live to see the apocalypse.
I won’t live to see it
because my death will trigger it.
So whilst my soul lingers
around for the Final Judgment,
wide awake as always,
I will watch as the Four Horsemen
appear on the horizon and sashay into view,
bareback riding unicorns
and ejaculating rainbows and sunbeams.
Always knew the gays would be the end of the world.
Everyone knew.
The only fire and brimstone to be seen
will be pouring out of the prolapsed rectums
of puppet politicians once the Horsemen pull out
their well lubricated fists.

I’m still awake.
That wasn’t a micronap flash-mob of a dream.
Those were waking thoughts.
That is what keeps me awake.
The stuff of dreams preventing me
from dreaming.
My boyfriend moves again.
His sleep talk bleeds from the bedroom to my ears.
I could be in there fucking him.
I could be,
but both he and my cock are asleep.
If only I could make insomnia my bitch.
Tonight, however, I’m hers.


Photo by Sebastien Garcia


Suffering from psychosis since the age of four, as well as being on the Schizophrenia Spectrum, Dominic Lyne has been diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. All of these mental health issues bleed into his work through his creation of claustrophobic landscapes and offer the reader an insight into his world, the world he has created and mutated in his physical reality. 


Paws in boots by Rishi Dastidar


PAWS IN BOOTS

I'm as jittery as a kangaroo
on a pogo stick on the San Andreas fault
who's had seven double espresso
and a diagnosis of nervous anxiety
to deal with this morning.

I am pre-distressed, and the wonder
isn't we are all like this always when
contending with the sheer impossibility 
of contemplation in a world that suggests
that it is contemptible and consumption is all.

The only solution, the ad suggests,
is to find a girl with beautifully unwashed hair,
and use her green Converse boots
to kick someone else in the head.

Well, that is capitalism, 
as we currently understand it.


Rishi Dastidar’s debut collection Ticker-tape is published by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he is also chair of the London writer development organization Spread The Word.

Weidmann Appeared Before You by Jonathan Kemp



WEIDMANN APPEARED BEFORE YOU

Let us say now that her carnal pleasures never made her fear the wrath of God, the scorn of Jesus, or the candied disgust of the Holy Virgin, never until…

Something makes you look up from your book, perhaps some instinct or unconscious signal - some scent perhaps, or a sixth sense you’re not aware you have. There, two seats in front, on the top deck of the 106 to Finsbury Park, your gaze falls on the back of a boy’s head, a glorious crop of luscious dark brown curls, the lick of its tail at the nape is skewed slighty off-centre & such imperfection makes the sight even more precious. You fall into thinking about the erotics of hair. Why women of certain faiths are commanded to cover their hair lest they incite men to lustful thoughts, making their minds stray to the other hair between her legs. You think about the boy’s body hair. Is it plentiful or scarce, clippered or running wild?

He has his right arm in a sling, and the injury makes him more beautiful still; even though at this point you cannot see his face beyond the quick glimpses of a Roman nose when he turns to look out of the window; a profile of most noble horniness. You find yourself abandoning the book momentarily so you can enjoy the vision before you, the random, unexpected beauty of the back of his head and neck, those well-built shoulders in washed-out salmon jersey cotton, that fits where it hits, showing off his beefy arms. It’s as if you’ve just wandered in off the street into a gallery & found a painting or a statue that you cannot tear your eyes away from. He can’t have any idea how hypnotically beautiful the sight of him from behind is, with those tempting snatches of that profile of a god. His skin is creamy, dreamy, his stubble sparse & lickable. 

You wonder if it’s appropriate to objectivize him like this but know, deep down, that it is. Or at least it is a habit so instinctive that it’s become second nature to you. You remember B saying, ‘I don’t mind of you objectivize me; go ahead’ as you gazed at him, stroked the firm furred ass, drank in the sight of him.  You’ve never bought that it is dehumanizing, or rather if it is it’s a universal experience: to objectify and be objectified in turn. We are all both subject & object. To objectify a beautiful human doesn’t rob them of their subjectivity. The recognition of another’s deep, complex subjectivity is a radical act of intimacy. It is overwhelming, vertiginous, both terrifying and liberating. You don’t know where you end and they begin, so much are you a product of their own perceptions, imagination, and desire, & they of yours. 

You look down & return to your book & read Genet’s words: “The Eternal passed by in the form of a pimp” & they seem to sing in a way you’ve never heard before. For Genet, in that scene, in his cell devising stories about hot murderers & well-endowed criminals to get himself off, “merely to have mentioned him is enough for my left hand in my torn pocket to… And the memory of Darling will not leave me until I have completed my gesture.” That ellipsis – that wank – occurs outside of language, an act only suggested, left to the imagination, rather than described. He leaves the reader (who he sees always as a bourgeoisie straight white male) in no doubt what he is up to. Instead Genet describes the fantasy that gets him off:

He appeared standing before me with the same graciousness that might have been his lying naked in a field of pinks. I was his at once, as if (who said that?) he had discharged through my mouth straight to my heart. Entering me until there was no room left for myself

Genet concludes this portrait of Darling with the statement: "If I think about him, I can’t stop praising him until my hand is smeared with my liberated pleasure.”

For Genet, to objectify a desirable male is an act of praise, the pimp is raised on a pedestal of Genet’s making, enrolled in a sexual fantasy that elevates him to the very top of the angels’ hierarchy. 

Our gaze is always slant, slight, tentative, alert to being spotted; never assertive, appropriate, though indeed it does appropriate, with eager tongue, lapping up what it sees, loving with our eyes those things they are blessed to see. We’re not supposed to look, or not like this, but still we look, still we lust. Loving with our eyes those things they are blessed to see. 



Photo by Ellie Clarke


Jonathan Kemp lives & works in London. His first novel London Triptych won the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award.