Push Button Push

(This piece first appeared on Penny’s fab blog)

I have felt terribly alone and isolated.

Documentary of the night.

I have felt tense, anxious or nervous.

Guest appearance as a donkey.

I have felt I have someone to turn to for support when needed.

Inventory of the morning.

I have felt okay about myself.

Cameo role as a fish.

I have felt totally lacking in energy and enthusiasm.

Standing ovation at the bedside.

I have been physically violent to others.

Night cream spilt on the quilt.

I have felt able to cope when things go wrong.

Losing your looks in increments.

I have been troubled by aches, pains or other physical problems.

Contract signed before dawn.

I have thought of hurting myself.

Night-time dripping. More time. Day-time scuttling away.

Talking to people has felt too much for me.

Episodes that were your undoing pulsate on the drooping backdrop: dado rail of the dirt, benchmark of the bile, watermark of the wimp, slurry of the insecurity, hallmark of the hellhound.

Tension and anxiety have prevented me doing important things.

My wheels will be powered by your delusions, they flow heavy like custard – we’ll be speeding all the way to Ancient Egypt.

I have been happy with the things I have done.

At the brightest moment of the years, streets busy, shadows jagged, you walked out, head high, shoulders back, legs swinging smoothly, greased and ready for the sprint to the bomb blast, the jet, the toilet incident, the emergency, the paper-boat, the wind chime, the indiscretion, the waitress, the sand-pit.

I have been disturbed by unwanted thoughts and feelings.

Improvised lines whisked you to scenes you hadn’t rehearsed. On rushed your groovy understudy, stuffed with blunder, slipping on the pebbles, dressed in a complicated costume, trashing your leading role.

I have felt like crying.

Let’s do it again. For the sake of the night. For the lack of respite. For the novelty of a sore notch on my barrel.

I have felt panic or terror.

Dressed in denim for this command performance, you’re a faded urban star, off the leash, gunning for the extras, galloping home from a coup.

I made plans to end my life.

Velcro fastenings open easy. I tap on the windows. You are eroding like a leper, to the sound of my relentless ring tone.

I have felt overwhelmed by my problems.

Exit stage left as a pantomime horse. Emote for the apocalyptic encore.

I have had difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.

You will drown in your maidenform bra, jeered at by a legion of doggy-paddling doom-bringers, clones of your x-rated exes.

I have felt warmth or affection for someone.

You led the way to your squat on Death Road the first time he walked Death Road. The first time he walked Death Road he didn’t know where he was. You led the way to your squat on Death Road the first time he walked Death Road. You heard the ice-cream van.

My problems have been impossible to put to one side.

You snogged the boy who burnt down the school.

I have been able to do most things I needed to.

The inflating and deflating black rubber blob of despair.

I have threatened or intimidated another person.

You tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the world.

I have felt hopeless.

You were a house-bound flat-dweller, cultivating your window-box of resentment with a borrowed watering can. One of those jazzy types, with bells on.

I have thought it would be better if I were dead.

Doom Black

He sits. He fiddles. He yawns.

Venom Yellow

He stands. He vomits. He guffaws.

Scarlet Lake

She sighs. She simpers. She gnaws.

Venereal Vermilion

They dance. They fondle. They fall.

I have felt criticised by other people.

Palest blue, dense angora sheath, knitted to your body, soft and fluffy as all hell out, with broad satin ribbons of royal blue.

I have thought I have no friends.

You were star-crossed, kosh-boshed, lying in the gutter of a winding street lined with people behind closed doors. His two woofing dogs were kicked and driven to the pound. You were carrying baubles and bank notes given to you on trust by a woman who should have known better. You both spent the night in the nick.

You felt the ungiving limits of the panic cell, slow descent of the ceiling, eyes in the door, khazi of chrome, blue plastic mattress, locked ward waiting upstairs. Time snapped. You were mauled by the equation of brain + body + walls = time in the panic cell, mauled by the voice going too fast, breathing unsustainable, in your adjacent cells. Your first collaboration with a dog boy.

I have felt unhappy.

He’s holding the explosive orange toy spider, regarding the tube of inadequacy, shielded by the withered plug and short chain of your protection, below the splintered wooden dice of fear, the blue marble swirls of large potential, the sharp pointy nail-clippers of indifference, gripping the can-opener of arrogance.

Miniature bust of Nefertiti riding the convulsing spider ragged. Man Handle. Beauty in turquoise – a triumphant erection.

Unwanted images or memories have been distressing me.

Wasted. Put out to grass on Methadone and Valium on ‘script. On his way to the knacker’s yard he was felled by the twitch of epilepsy, snuffed out by his untried brain. He left you a widow’s rainbow – its lining your innards.

He comes to you frequently now – eyes shadeless yet shut to the days. You wend your way, circling the wheel-chair. Seven years. Flesh from bone. Air from lungs. Liver, life, long rot. He is your shrine. You are his relic.

I have been irritable when with other people.

To open in emergency PUSH BUTTON PUSH and slide the doors to open.

I have thought I am to blame for my problems and difficulties.

You shoved them, bound and gagged, into the back of a van, then pushed them out the door. They tumbled down the fast road like human bowling balls.

I have felt optimistic about my future.

Your baby cowered in a corner, behind an armchair and a row of overturned pot plants, soil and roots trodden into the carpet. War baby. Little red fists. A raw lump of giblets strung together with cat-gut, wrapped in cling-film, rocking from a door handle in a carrier bag, next to a nest of ashtrays, suckling on a tarry bong.

The dogs heard things you couldn’t. They barked along to lullabies beamed down from Planet Zonk – in her knickers lurks something you wouldn’t expect to find – you won’t need no prosthetic when you get into their aesthetic – her vulva was abducted by aliens – one of them set up home in her womb – its froggy fingers come out to play whenever he squeezes her lemon – they don’t need no catalogue vibrator – they got an alien love simulator… tra la lah. Like that.

I have achieved the things I wanted to.

His eyes were an inter-stellar set-up.

I have felt humiliated or shamed by other people.

You wanted your song to be a warm duet, not a frigid solo.

I have hurt myself physically or taken dangerous risks with my health.

You need a gang of expert levitators to move you.

I have felt terribly alone and isolated.

It was hard work wearing his weather-head but he trotted it out every day. He sashayed down the dark descent, his buddha buttocks swaying, sea salt crystallizing his cataracts, indulgence clenching his belly – a sight for sore eyes, a local landmark, cruising, lost, chosen – bent on half-price happy hour, hoping to get it on tick.

I have felt tense, anxious or nervous.

His mum read your tea leaves. Destroy, repair, destroy. She said that was your trajectory, the story of your life. He only sent you one Visiting Order when he was on remand. Told you not to even write, when he was doing his shit and a shave. In his absence, his parents took you in. You became part of the family – stitched-up exhibit of lies. His randy dad had knowing hands. Offered to set you up in his love nest. You considered it but bottled out. You worked long shifts in their sandwich bar, scarred by the steaming cappuccino machine, learnt how to butter a slice of white with one fell swoop of the blade. His mum got you to pluck her eyebrows. Said she’d seen you in a vision, standing hard in the yard. Gave you cash to fritter. Left cartons of cigarettes on the sideboard. Got olives imported from home. It was the land of plenty. Arnos Grove sanctuary. Until he was released.

He threw the cat in your face. He snatched an old lady’s handbag. He chased the dragon in the lounge. When he saw you were reading ‘Nuns and Soldiers’ by Iris Murdoch he took you for a raving sex fiend. He put on weight inside. Played Monty Python LPs. You sat cross-legged and listened all night, wrapped in his junk cotton wool. He lost it when you fried his scrambled eggs. You packed your bag the next morning. He must have had a weeny willy. Wore cravats. Covered his tracks. Was in thrall to the nullified nothing on a hazy, faraway beach.

I have felt I have someone to turn to for support when needed.

There’s a puddle the size of an ocean right outside your front door.

I have felt okay about myself.

You flew up the chimney in the small hours. Got stuck on the broken-tiled roof. Sliding. Down. The drainpipe. Word swarms got you good.

I have felt totally lacking in energy and enthusiasm.

She was a barrister. The law was on their side. They saved shards of soap in the feet of old stockings. They were proud of their blooming pergola. Owned a cardboard box factory. Drew botanical illustrations. Raced classic cars on the seafront. You beeped the horn. Didn’t get a go in the chopper. Walked miles with a tinny of warm lager. Ruined your best biker boots. Ruined your wild life future. Ruined your two front teeth. Took you for a pissed-up picnic on a busy roundabout. I know, you cursed them all.

I have been physically violent to others.

Clearing weeds from the lawn, strimmer cord bright orange, whipping his puffy ankles. Admiring his colossus legs straddling promises set in cracked concrete, gravel for the renovated granny annexe. I’m half left. Her words, not yours. A lady. Always a lady. Crashed his car outside the school gates. Fascinating school girl distraction. A dolly. Only a dolly. Not a sexual force.

I have felt able to cope when things go wrong.

He said he was drawn to you by the action of traction.

I have been troubled by aches, pains or other physical problems.

In a seaside town with a curse on it, down a short steep flight of stairs, past the skin-crawl bouncers, into the heaving crypt. Floor tiles sticky with scrumpy, toilets packed with elbowing incontinents wading through eddies of piss, nostrils bleeding, long queue of donkeys outside. Tampon machine empty. Five bag in your handbag. Chewing gum in your hair. Soggy loo-roll clinging to your stiletto.

I have thought of hurting myself.

There came a time when simple attraction couldn’t push your buttons. You found the fat man and the skinny man. They were like a parable, or nursery rhyme characters. There must have been a moral in there, somewhere.

Skinny man was bald, wore a nicotined tash, pronounced veins, bunches of bony fingers, slipped his fist in unexpected and easy. Made your eyes wide. Dwelt on his moment of glory as a stock-room boy in a supermarket, shagging cashiers in the industrial lift behind lines of clattering trolleys. He was game. You hung his carcass to rot.

Fat man called himself Batman, waddled like a penguin, had ‘give me head’ tattooed on his forehead, needed to do it side-ways, resting his gut on your arse. Always proposing marriage, sent you Get Well Soon cards as if your troubles were a pesky influenza. Left knocked-off perfume in your drawers, splashed out on a radio alarm clock. When it was time for his shift, he got up and inflated his Bat-suit. You drained his blubber.

Both were out of their depth. Neither seemed to notice. Lived it like it was real. You were itching for the weirdness of the thrill. You dismantled the tyranny of time in a bed dishevelled by your lizard brain directives. Turned your face to the height of the wall when they balked at the inevitable imposition. Onset of rigor mortis. Viagra tossed in the waste basket…

Relishing the frisson of revulsion.

Talking to people has felt too much for me.

He was more able than you. Had more savvy, swore like a navvy, knew how to dance the rumba, could never hide his eyes from the lack inside, faced up to it with a most eloquent shrug. He rolled ciggies with his toes, made you come with his nose, had two stumps for arms and he held them wide open for you. Was well read, desperate in bed, had a good spread of juggernaut charms, not as bitter as one would imagine. You held his feet to your lips, tickled his toes, dribbled on his calloused soles, doled out the consolation. Though he seemed fearless, the one thing he was scared of was you. He couldn’t hold your hand, covered it with generous kisses. The man with no arms can’t applaud you. He can’t hit you either. He was a favourite. You let him linger for ages. Only recently finished him off.

Tension and anxiety have prevented me doing important things.

A paranoid aria blew in from the hall on a gust of glitter from the kitchen. He travelled all the way from the bed to ask about the lack of time, crying for his dick, poor thing. You tied weights to his ankles. His feet are adrift on the mistral, coasting low, hugging the shoreline of the skirting board. His head is swooping in arcs around your haven of frosty, eyes glinting from his pert perpendicular. His smile is a crack on your ceiling. He’s falling to pieces, politely. A perpetual work in progress.

I have been happy with the things I have done.

girls on high horses cantering through junk-yards

women in tight corners stretching long canvas

men in small rooms rehearsing big speeches

boys up the scaffolding wolf-whistling bouncy

devilfish in sports cars hunting bohemia

loonies on ledges promising parachutes to children

stag beetles on lino ruing the day they sang to

young brats in breeches plotting routes to the bike sheds

mirror on the mantlepiece is going away

newborns in box-rooms watching memory speed heedless

at spiders on curtains

riding the frills

deep sea divers swam off small islands

wore weighted boots looked out from helmets

are buried under gravestones bearing your name

I have been disturbed by unwanted thoughts and feelings.

Driving in a cul-de-sac, face ten foot wide, fading at the edges, cup empty, like mine. Driving up and down the seafront: bed and breakfasts, arcades, abandoned pier, fishing huts like charcoal teeth biting small red sky. Reversing on narrow wet roads, downhill backwards too slow, a huge orange van reversing in front of you into a busy junction. Bought a litre of Stoli, clucking bad, wearing transparent dress and mohair coat, didn’t know what to do with the vodka, where to put the bottle. Playing an out-of-it game in a condemned building filled with hangers-on.

Brimming with ideas for your next disaster.

Driven by the urgency to find him, because once he sets eyes on you, with your big hairy coat and your litre of rocket fuel, he will know you are the one. All the girls, his children, his ex-wives, his friends, everyone clamouring for him. You are the very one he needs to meet. You can’t get to grips with your hair though. Its wet and you never could style it right, and you are too real for these people and just right for him.

You get to the room where he will be, all younger than you, you’ve lost your coat, your dress is revealing your imperfect body and you’re prowling, getting your first fix, got it in a cup, its petrol blue in a squidgy plastic beaker, bubbling and foaming, you can’t drink it fast enough, fast enough to make the cluck go away, and you’re desperate to find your coat, its time to go, the tribes are leaving and you missed him.

He left before you got there and you will try again.

I have felt like crying.

I will show you how.

I have felt panic or terror.

He head-butted a gawking passer-by. You planted a magic kiss on his split brow.

Amongst his spindly furniture, playing stacks of old LPs, finding your shared history, where you came from separately, where you were going as a couple. The rules of attraction, playing away, double impact, the hall of fame, enduring love: the big shot and the queen bee.

He crouched at the starting blocks. You fired the gun. Together, you turned Curse Town upside-down.

I made plans to end my life.

There were casualties and witnesses with the knife wounds to prove it. You told lies on the Holy Bible, your pride as heavy as the gavel was light. He leaned from the dock maintaining his cock-sure angle-poise, calling you a tricky treacle tart.

Night-club cash-point taxi-rank – no place to hide. In the passageway between Trinity Church and the Cafe Delight you were beautifully twisted inside. He showed you how to do party eyes. Purple wonders. Swollen flowers. Yellow petals. Practised daily. Brutal brooches. When the money ran out he found a home for his boot in your belly. Thirty cursed adventures of the year. He was only a dog boy. You were only the clog girl, orchestrating your own pregnant pause.

I have felt overwhelmed by my problems.

The tide rushed upwards to the grey wiffled cloud clues, his eyes rolled back into his skull – torn frothing lips, blood rimmed teeth, tongue shredded meat, body wild jerking, clad in an old leather trench coat. Six foot three inches of stiff driftwood, stretched out on the snow on the shingle. Orange contrails scratched across white empty.

I have had difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.

On your irresistible return you smelt the musk of a pretty pierced girl on his sheets. She rolled ice-cubes over his bollocks, forthright fornicator. She told shaggy dog stories in the bedroom. It was nothing, he said, because she kept her knickers on. And then he said: ‘can I come inside you?’ You were masticated. He ripped the second-hand dress off your back, tore it in half, wrote messages with marker pens on the rags, left them stretched over the legs of up-turned chairs for you to read in the hungover waiting-room of morning: ‘love me, you don’t know how to love me.’

You were a sculptor of love with a fast clumsy chisel and a hammer. On the last morning you cut off his dreads, shaven like a baby bald eagle. You were taken away in the back of a crawling police car, pressed your boiling bruises against the cool glass of the window. Ashamed to leave the scene of the crime. Defeated. Retreating. Waving your grubby bandages. Onlookers pointing the finger. His friends and family blaming you. You failed to tame the beast. You were no match for the monster, after all.

I have felt warmth and affection for someone.

lock the front door

slide the bolt

jiggle the chain into place

untie the knots

bin the empties

lift the latch on your larder

sit down and smoke lots of fags

grind out the butts in your threadbare flesh

you are a rag doll with no name

re-write your murky past

re-live your flaky fables

lips mashed to broken glass

slurping the effervescence

twine cat’s cradles with your hair

cut off your crusty gusset

glue your leathered heart

onto your elasticated sleeve

humour the monkey on your back

he is playing nicely

poke out your criss-crossed eyes

rip out your hectic tongue

tear off your stitch-loose head

throw it on the roaring fire

watch it shrink in the blaze

I promise it won’t hurt

exhume your measly ashes

mix them with snot and spittle

sink your paws in the mush

fashion a head with two faces

double the home-made grin

look both ways at once

talk two times the gibber

open twice as wide

clock this with your four eyes:

I’m hugging a bendy eucalyptus tree

avoiding your badly designed zooming flowers

I’m tap dancing up your crazy-paving

I’m hunkered on your weedy lawn

I’m swinging in your overgrown bush

I’m salivating on your juicy marrow

grinding my teeth on your bones

manipulating your pace-maker

gesticulating in your lower intestine

I’m spraying my name in big black bold

across your ideal porch

I’m climbing in your open window

humping a thumping great thesaurus

fill your belly with these words:

you are undone, my love

I don’t want you

take a whiff

you smell stupid

A drama queen production brought to you by the power of elbow.


~ by yearzerowriters on July 4, 2010.

3 Responses to “Push Button Push”

  1. Scary, funny, brilliant. It occurs to me you’re capable of making art out of nearly any questionnaire!

  2. Penny, I love the dialectic element in this. What it really makes me think of in the “I” passages is Prufrock – and with the way the other material elaborates out from that, it’s as though Eliot is having a conversation with Alan Bennett, only all of it is you.

  3. And “dado rail” isn’t used enough in poetry – it’s such an expressive little pair of words, such a perfect metaphor for so many things, and so sonorous, and I’ve never heard it before

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