Today I was inspired by Fanny Howe, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet. I like the style and flow of some of this kind of poetry, it walks a fine line between itself and The Beats I think and anyone will tell you I’m normally a bit down on the Beats, but I do quite like the moments in time and the long riffs that spark off from little ideas, so I tried it myself today. It’s a prose poem, so don’t try telling me it’s a short story or whatever because IT’S A PROSE POEM AND GIVE ME A BREAK THIS POETRY LARK IS TOUGH. It’s called Your First Shower At Mine.
The street cat’s muted viola seasoned mewing lines the gutter like small rivulets of mercury hardening everything it touches with its silvery sound. Faint smells of barbecues come through the window now that the months are reminded it is coming Summer. I was awake until first light as you got drowsy lying next to me. There’s a certain point in the evening where we closed the curtains and they have to stay closed for the minute even though it is early afternoon so I can only see my back yard through a metre long strip of stolen light between the fabric and the wall and in my back yard I can see nothing but dirty, white spots on the rough, grey gravel; rolled up cigarette butts and spat out chewing gum – even the ephemeral is now made permanent as, like a Pollock, the splotches and dots that are dizzied amongst each-other are framed by the brick walls that separate me from my neighbours.
The shower started with a short click followed by the sound of fountains and I can almost hear the shape of your body based on how the water splashes at different pitches as it bounces of a hip-bone, a salt cellar, a geometric outline made soft by little curves, your Roman nose as you look nearly into the shower head and rub your face.
Before you came here I’d been drunk for three months.
I wonder how many people, guests of the house, have showered in that bathroom, the room closest to mine? How many people the Frenchman in the attic has invited here for threesomes? How many relatives? The parents or sister of the girl from Watford who lives across the hallway? For me, I’d never noticed the sound of their showering before. I’d never noticed when the last person I’d even said “I love you” to was in there, it didn’t seem important, somehow, and I don’t remember ever sitting on my bed, listening in like a voyeur, hearing his shapes as the water lapped against him, only that he should please hurry up.
Before you, the little things never caught my eye. I never saw the stickers on the lamppost near my bus stop saying: “TRUST YOUR STRUGGLE”, saying: “MAKE IT HAPPEN”, saying: “YOU ARE SOMEONE’S IDEA OF PERFECT”, until your first shower at mine. Before, my mouth had always been dry and my head had always felt too heavy to be supported by me. And also, my house was always overflowing with an excess of leavings:
Pizza boxes, wine bottles, condom wrappers, screwed up please-forgive-me-notes, the box a pregnancy test came in, disposable razors, bandages, a hospital discharge sheet, spent blister packets of pills, rizla papers, receipts from dinners, bus tickets, an engagement ring, the box it came in, a note telling me to hold on tight, the receipt from that night, watches that don’t work any more, bootlaces, small clear plastic bags lined with cocaine residue, a stalk that some pot once grew on, a piece of broken glass.
They lived like oddities in an installation that people I wish I was friends with might attend the opening of.
There had been a mouse in here once, the only living thing. Manchester, it being vast and filled with hundreds of thousands of people, was nothing but very lonely. Cars parked on my street looked like they’d never moved from their spot. But when you took that first shower at mine I could see they sometimes did in fact crawl on the roads with at least some purpose, as I saw them out of that little slat of light I have that goes out into the world from my bed. I heard the shower click off again and your feet hit the bathroom floor. My feeling was a symptom, I feel, of a wider syndrome – at first alert / like i’d just woken up / briefly / still scared from a nightmare / hit with relief when it had all just been in my head / and the day had something better to bring with it / a something-better that begins – when you come back into the bedroom. I think, the wider syndrome of what I describe here as I recount this feeling of you showering at my house, was the apparent “temporary insanity” cynics will tell you is bred from falling in love, but it wasn’t an insanity, it was – and is – a wellness that lives around us with the first light of the early afternoon in the summer, with the cat moaning outside, the smell of barbecues wafting through the light air.