CRUELTY IS LIKE LIPSTICK by Tom Bland

CRUELTY IS LIKE LIPSTICK


Standing on the stage at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern,

I was a third of the way into my monologue as 


my eyes stared 

at the confused cabaret 

audience who were expecting 

comedy/dance/physical-theatre/lip-sync. 

I was in a white

PVC nurse’s outfit from Honour in Waterloo. 

I already knew I was way too much for their minds. 

I was seeking to disrupt the neurological

patterns/opening their minds 

to anything other than the inane products to be bought on a plastic card.


But they hated the idea of their thinking being 

gripped/

shaken/broken by a cosmological cruelty, all looking at me/all 

looking at the bar 

for 

this to be over, 


for me to be over,


for me to stop reciting 

Burroughs as if The Western Lands was 

the eternal 

gospel of thanatos

every fucker needed to hear,


Instead of trying to keep the patient alive, we will

keep his Death alive. If 

he can become Death, he cannot die.” 

The audience's confusion grew as they skimmed Instagram and Grindr, 

chatting, paying no attention 

to my 

absurd gestures and expressions of anguish: 

utterly unable to engage in my discourse, 


like those 

faces of 

my youth trying to make out my gargled words or giving up 

mouthing the word 


“retard” 


at me.


I moved into free association on my true icon,


“This is Artaud’s 

The Theatre of

Cruelty: 

a virus

breaking down the 

network

of being, destroying

thinking/naming. I AM NO ONE. Artaud divided 

cruelty 

into

the material and the spiritual; 

he hated physical 

pain, the concrete prison

of the asylum, 


the electric shots to his brain,

the insulin injections, the sheet torture, 

but the ethereal

mouth he loved, screaming inside his fucked up mind

realised 

in Samuel Beckett’s

Not I, where the mouth said, whole body

like gone, leaving only the death 

incarnate; the mouth’s cruelty

to speak/scream/thunder; 

the demon 

replicating demons, making

the bodily cells…” 


And then an audience member shouted out,


“DEMONIC,”

laughing at his own ability 

to imagine 

the end,

but the virus had no end game: 


it 

just 

consumed 

without 

destiny.



Tom Bland is the editor of Spontaneous Poetics and has written two books, The Death of a Clown (Bad Betty Press 2018) and the soon to be released Camp Fear (Bad Betty Press 2021).

The Death of a Clown

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