I lie

Lip-reading the liquid crystal drumbeat.

Red slashes strafe the ceiling;

Hours minutes seconds,

The tick tock triptych

Flickers faces of a pulsebeat promenade,

A pageant scarred

From the egg-pan scraps and rancid lard

Of my life.

One by one they hide their whispers in the roar,

The crowdsourced maw

The thousand mouths

That pound and gouge

Their silent cries

Inside my skull,

Behind my eyes,



Repeating, repeating:


Freakshow plays a nightly Columbine zoetrope tamazepam blur, rejubilant slur, infinite whir, sleep now bullet-hole smack-rush joy lie there the deserving dead and never stir

Freakshow wears a wrist-slit wristlet of his meds, rosary recites and plucks each bead and tongues each name, each holy mother treat me beat me amen

Freakshow has fuck-dream fantasies of Mary Bell, folds her in a skin book blanket to protect her from a living hell

Freakshow prowls the corners of the pheromone cage he constructed in his own front room

Freakshow says if you don’t see the secrets of Gannymede, pulsars, galaxy dust beginnings striated out in Jack White’s riffs then what’s the point, and mashes grandma’s pumpkin chowder cool between air guitar fingers

Freakshow’s life is so important to your lace chintz gimp mask vibrator conscience you throttle each word before it leaves his throat

Freakshow finds stillness in the million iPod ears scrumming a chaos concertina; in the neon thrum the bass and drum, the car horn and hawker, the cortisol scent of slickers bonus-bent and rent boys, hookers, a thousand faces more lost than his in cardboard houses, peeking out from Prada blouses, empty, drawn, transparent, barely bulging the bubble of his self-absorption as they brush by towards their Waterloo nothing

Freakshow harvests cancer daydream sinews, tans and tenderises, chemo anaesthetises them with his keypad club till each page hollers at the star-pricked unpolluted sky grazing the night for kitten candy innocents to scrape, for stopped-up pelmet ears to rape

Freakshow needs a passport to leave the prison of his head, increasingly infrequently collects his border guard refusal stamps and shuffles back to his squalid camp to wait his patient turn

Freakshow lives in a candle joint hotel room darkness world, shrinking down to the wrinkled dragons past the body boundary of his collagen-culled and crippled skin

This sicked-on Soho sidewalk night slithers toward cinnamon coffee dawn, turns off the torture porn of spooling self-derision, the prophecies, the visions, the pharmacy and fallout from a fissile life, and bares its wrists to the drab diazepam day,

The lithium grey

The fog, the fug, the cigarette-smoke grey

The sacred grey

The damnèd grey

This daylight veil

I wear like dust

This calico skin I push through the pores from an endlessly replenishing stuffcloth innards mind

Is me


Your border control, your limen lychgate ash-filled heart

The skin that shrink wraps and vacuum packs you

The barcode that tracks you

The pudenda the sphincter that sucks in your boredom excretia

The white sand shore that laps on your drabness

That traps the flab and flaccid slab of your normality.

I’m the cock, the gash

The pox the rash

The stenching slash to your screaming throat, your pleading bleeding hands that wrote their foul graffiti on the wall, the great stone empty hall;

The echoes in your ears, the reflections in your tears, the flea bite fingers that pricktease your skin for eighty seven years



Repeating, repeating


~ by yearzerowriters on February 20, 2010.

47 Responses to “Freakshow”

  1. […] final thing, I’ve posted the poem I’ll be performing for the first time on the night. It’s called Freakshow, my […]

  2. Man, you know I don’t like poetry, and this is no different. I think it might be my lack [of effort or intelligence, I don’t know], but I don’t understand what is happening in this poem. The language means nothing when it’s like this, and it kind of makes me cringe.

    I know this seems harsh, but it’s not you specifically, it’s poetry in general. Why does it do nothing for me?

    I did like some lines in Skin Book, but overall i felt the same, that it would be much better as fiction.

    If you could explain some of the lines to me it might help. Things like, why you wrote this like this, what you were intending etc. I know this isn’t normal procedure, but i’m curious. And I don’t mean this to come off like me being an asshole, I’m not, I like your fiction, but I just don’t get your [or anyone’s] poetry. Same with Bukowksi, I love his fiction, but i avoid his poems, and the few i have read made me cringe too.


    • It’s good because it leaves me with a real goal – to write a poem you like. No, seriously, that’s somethng that would mean a hell of a lot to me – and I’ll keep working at it for years to come.

      Give me a line and I’ll happily explain it.

      The rationale – it’s about lying awake with insomnia tortured by all the people who told you you’re worthless – and the way that come the morning no one ever sees that – they just get the grey mask – but actually, by being a “monster” you’re some kind of limit case. I’m about to cook lunch for visitors but happy to explain at length later.

      • Man, i think it’s impossible. As soon as i see poetry, i duck for cover. It’s the same with Sarah’s wizard too. I just don’t get it. Maybe i don’t try hard enough? How hard do you try with poetry? Do you read it again and again and read it out loud to try and nail it?

      • Okay, try this one:

        Freakshow plays a nightly Columbine zoetrope tamazepam blur, rejubilant slur, infinite whir, sleep now bullet-hole smack-rush joy lie there the deserving dead and never stir

        I guess i understand what you’re going for, but when it’s put like this, i just can’t take it seriously. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it comes across as fake? Trying too hard to be poetic? I don’t know, but I just don’t visualise any kind of character. This is the feeling i get with poetry in general.

      • “How hard do you try with poetry? Do you read it again and again and read it out loud to try and nail it?”
        Depends on the poem – when I’m writing it’s all about rhythm and feel and very little about what the words actually mean in and of themselves (like Sarah says about the in between spaces). Some poems don’t work like that – they’re almost like still life art, in which case you just have to feel. A rhythm poem, though, yes, I think you have to read it aloud again and again – certainly when I read Eliot or Poe or Ginsberg taht’s the only wayto come close to them.

        That line – first off, the whole reason for writing this as a poem is to convey relentlessness – the absolute insistence of intrusive negative thoughts – and the repetition is to convey the way lots of little doubts build to one scream of spooling self-derision as I think I called it. The relentlessness is why I use internal rhyme the way I do – to create a long, pounding, never-ending sentence as close to the feel of the endless battery of mortar fire as I can get (think Portishead’s Machine Gun). What does it mean? Well, it’s basically just describing what I used to think about as a 14 year old. I’d picture the same scene over and over in my head of me going into school and shooting up every kid in the place and watching them fall in slow motion and I had to play it again and again and only when they were all dead did I have a brief, beautiful moment of relief like crack more than smack actually in its spike before it wore off, gave way to anxiety and hurt and I had to play the scene again.

  3. I can see where you’re coming from, Oli, and as always you’re uncompromisingly honest, which is why I love your crits. I think I also prefer Dan’s prose to his poetry, on the whole, but this is a bit different for me – it lands its punches, it can’t be pinned down. On this form, Dan’s in for a title shot.

    I can’t wait to hear Dan read this at To Hell With Books. This cries out to be listened to, just as Sarah’s latest poem seemed made for a beautiful printed page?

    • Larry, this poem owes its existence to your comments on SKIN BOOK – about how it sounded good but was more surface than substance. So I wanted to dig right under the surface and write something that might connect with that sense of utter alienation we all feel at some point – something that people I cared about could relate to more directly

      • That’s what I meant about you landing punches this time – this one feels as though it’s connecting with something much deeper than the recent poems, and now that you explain it – yes, it does connect with my moments of alienation. It reminds me of Ginsberg’s Howl in this regard.

        In the difficult line Oli quotes, I understood the poet lying awake seeing a succession of images, blurred but not suppressed by the temazepam – his persecutors being slain in a Columbine-style shoot-out? For me, that’s the extreme, sleeper-resistant insomnia where you can’t stop the mind chuntering along, enmeshed in revenge fantasies. I like this more each time I read it.

      • yes, Larry – exactly that insomnia – you just can’t stop it and in the end you just have to go with it and you end up playing out all those thoughts – “blurred but not suppressed” is a perfect way of describing it – I think it’s the actual visual quality of the image I was trying to convey.

  4. great poem!

  5. I know I posted on this the other day. Don’t know what happened to it.

    I enjoyed this piece. I thought it really took off when you reached the long lines.

    It reminds me a little of my own Tango, but this is much better.

  6. Firstly I deliberately haven’t read this as I want to come to it fresh and virginal live on Tuesday. So I’ve only got generalities to offer re prose & poetry. I don’t read poetry either. Never really got on with its compression. But having said that, seems to me the gap between blank verse and prose that aims to be lyrical is negligible so as to be discounted. I loved Sarah’s “Wizard” piece – I didn’t distinguish between it being a poem or a piece of prose, I just reacted to the words, their meanings, rhythms and the look on the page with all the disintegration.

    However Dan, with your forays into poetry, I do worry for the progress of your novel which you unveiled the open chapter of then left us gagging for some more. Are you working on it in parallel?


    • Yes, I am in deed working on it in parallel – I believe I mentioned I wouldn’t post again until it was finished – which may or may niot turn out to be true. It’s taking some very unexpected turns. I also found it becoming too rhythmical and poetic, so I need to write poems as a release for that 🙂

  7. I hated poetry with a mad, mad passion for most of my life. I encountered huge identity issues as a writer when I started writing it myself!

    I agree with what marc said about just reacting to the words and the rhythm. That’s why I’ll go into poetry, for the rhythm. You can get something close to that in prose, Penny’s work has great rhythm, and so does Daisy’s Pharmakon, but if you try to translate the rhythm of a poem into prose, it wouldn’t work. It would be contrived and get old really quick. The strong point of the poem would turn into the weak part of the prose.

    Prose is, in ideal form, knowing and informing, and poetry is about reading between the lines.

    As for my opinion on Freakshow, I could have something much more subtle. It gives itself up too easily for me. (Then again, look at the poem I posted–no one has a clue what that’s about!) So don’t take advice from me, I guess? Ha ha.

    • So did I (as you’ll have picked up) although I wrote nothing but poetry as a teenager. I agree the rhythm of a poem can’t really carry to prose without getting really over the top.

      Wizard – for me the overwhelming thing I take away is disintegration happening out of sight – of a life falling slowly apart – be it through drugs, or abuse or just growing old i can’t 100% be sure but it feels like it’s about the surface vs the reality – and that gave it a sad dignity for me.

      I either go too subtle or not enough – I’ll see what you make of Lipstick – it’s the story I wrote for Mayor Biggie’s song anthology and I think it’s bleeding obvious what’s happening but everyone said they didn’t have the faintest clue. Like you with Wizard, that really made me doubt myself. But with this anyway I was going for connection – it’s meant to be rabble-rousing, almost group-chanted, not subtle.

      • so you hated poetry while you wrote it? I was a very vocal poetry shunner. One of the things I was known for in my lit classes (other than coming up with really really weird analyses of everything).

        Wizard’s about my real-life childhood. There’s a good dose of fiction in it, but the fiction is there to add the elements, all the little clues to the puzzle. You’ve just got to rearrange them (and I don’t mean ‘in order’ or anything, but relational-wise). Then again, my best friend couldn’t figure it out. He thought it was a cute poem, and then felt very bad about that.

        Then you’ve done exactly what you wanted to with Freakshow. Very much a group-chanting sort of thing. I get that now.

      • No – I loved it as a teenager, but when I hit 20 I hated it – I think because I looked at what I’d written and it was SUCH rubbish (real wannabe gothic romance junk – I’ll post some as a joke one day) that I went into some kind of shock reaction, and only emerged when I rediscovered Eliot (I did him for A-level so it felt like coming back to a friend

      • Then ignore what I said about robots on twitter!!

      • Your last statement raises the issue as to whether you are more of a performance poet than a print poet, ie poetry read silently at home alone, like a novel. You seem to be saying that’s not for you. JCC, etc


      • It depends – THIS poem was specifically written to be read aloud. I love to read haiku and poems that work best on the page – like Sarah’s, and Remittance Girl and Cafe Nirvana come to mind, but that’s not how I write. I’m just too prolix – and too auditory a person.

  8. It’s like poetry has been captured by academics, and readers are intimidated, made to feel they don’t know what they’re talking about. I certainly feel this – do I know enough to comment? But when we get back to the enjoyment of folk ballads (the Sweet Maid of Tottenham, who ‘was as full of lechery as letters in a book’), or the Beat poets and perhaps the rappers, or the way Yeats took the rhythms of common Irish speech (‘because I helped to wind the clock, I’ve come to hear it chime,’ or ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / it’s with O’Leary in the grave’ – or almost any bloody thing that Yeats wrote) – when we rediscover the intoxication of poetry it ceases to be so difficult? As Marc says, we just need to react to the words, their meanings, their rhythms? We’re turned off by the way poetry has been press-ganged into the service of official causes.

    • Yes! Like the famous aleged quip by Eliot about Ash Wednesday and what he meant by “lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree” (“I mean ‘lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree'”). Poetry is immediate for me – yes, there are layers and layers but it has to make an instant connection to work – I think you’re right that’s why SKIN BOOK is very much “niche” – Freakshow is unashamedly populist.

  9. Dan – I see what you mean now. I think that would be a lovely group bonding–all of us posting some of our worst & firsts. Such a laugh!

    • Sadly I have removed all memory of my first efforts through judicious application of a cattle prod


      • no, you didn’t! Sacrilege! I hold on to every single thing I write. Nothing ever gets deleted permanently.

  10. Following this dialogue puts me in mind of Ginsburg’s Plutonium Ode. I read it when he first released and was immediately turned off. Every couple of lines had a footnote to explain some reference. The whole thing was so obtuse, it was no longer poetry. It was just so much dry academic masturbation. Give me Howl any day.

    • Amen! Intriguing the way poetry can cause such debate given the fact it’s such an immediate art form. I don’t know if ou know but Oxford is about to elect a new Poetry Professor and I’m standing on a universal access to culure platform (announcement today)

  11. Ha Sarah, thereby hangs our age difference! You never deleted your first scribblings – I never had any such option!


    • oh wow, yeah. Then again, technically I’ve lost my FIRST FIRSTS, those I scribbled on a legal pad before I owned a computer.
      I still have the first novel I tried to write. And that’s handwritten. But you have a very valid point.

  12. While we’re on the subject of poetry — I feel like some song lyrics are good enough to stand alone as poems — such as Siouxsie and The Banshees’ Sweetest Chill, New Order’s Faith and Ryan Adams’ Dear Chicago.

    • And most Radiohead – also Patti Smith like PD says

      • Ian Curtis (Joy Division) & Blixa Bargeld (Einsturzende Neubauten).

        Michale Gira of Swans has a very interesting linguistic approach which has inspired me – not sure I’d call his lyrics poetry though…


  13. Oh, also, I wrote Pharmakon as a poem. To me, it is a poem.

  14. I can totally see Pharmakon as a prose poem. That’s how I read it. And any number of lyrics qualify as stand alone poetry. Patti Smith, Jiom Morrison, and don’t forget Nick Cave.

  15. My goodness, Dan! I can’t believe you fit, ‘The pudenda the sphincter that sucks in your boredom excretia’ into there so nicely. You know what, you should have someone play an African drum to this. Do you know anyone who can do that? It would be a most perfect accompaniment. I can hear it in my head when I read this. Awesome.

    • Actually, I do, but they live in Oxford, so maybe for the 24th March – what a great idea. I’ve been talking about musical collaboration with 3 or 4 people – I can see a drum working really well (the only qualm I’d have is that they used a drumberta with poetry in Dead Poets’ Society, and people may think it contrived – but yes, I almost had a drum in my head whilst writing it )

  16. This reminds me of some people I know, who are discontent with life and feel lie they are stuck in an endless loop.

  17. *like* they are stuck in an endless loop. (oppsie!)

  18. […] is me reading the whole of Freakshow. Owing to the file size, what you have to see is a slideshow, albeit one taken from the night, but […]

  19. […] Holloway – FREAKSHOW; The Last Fluffer in La La […]

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