Poetry - The Wormwood Collective, Absinthe Literary Review

by Martin Rutley


According to Ruben, it’s 1973

Or “The year of tilt and side-step”

as he likes to call it


A significant date in Ruben’s theory

concerning the degeneration of artistic motive


(Typed notes beneath mattress on

candlelight and purity)


During the night, I hear him talking

to the detuned television set

in the corner of his room


I’ve stood with an ear pressed

to his bolted door


(Unable to resist his epic arguments

with grinning Warhol)


A beautifully constructed diatribe

regarding effort versus outcome

and the needlessness

of genius


(Imagine taking on such an icon whilst

urinating into empty coke bottles)


Eight weeks ago, he restarted his novel

about Christ, the serial killer

and his BMX riding comrades

out for vengeance on the 2 a.m.

streets of San Francisco


(Christ paints triptych scenes

of game-show host in boot of car)


A seven-year labor spanning two

decades and seventeen brutal homicides


“This is no parody,” yells Ruben

“This is a portrait of Christ at his angriest”


On Sunday evenings, mood permitting

He recites excerpts from his Grandfather’s

poetry to his imaginary Finnish friend, Kale


“Old man, write me one more passage”

“Soul chaser, parasite and patriot”


One piece, “My Life was Saved by Labor Strikes”

has become a particular favorite to Ruben


(Indeed, he can’t read it without first

supporting himself against some solid object)


This “lesson in normality” keeps him

at the counters of all-night stores

Fills his cupboards with chocolate milkshakes

antacid tablets and cable TV guides

Keeps his feet sock-less and

his chin full of stubbly hair


The very notion of “men in socks”

is an intolerable idea to Ruben

having not worn a single pair

for over eleven years


(As children we did play barefoot

in Aunt Sandra’s back yard)


© 2003 Martin Rutley

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