Sharp Noir (Part III)

Entombed by work, Cassis sits

alone now below a menhir

to the Colonel, his stipendiary

at the base of this monolith

characterises his worth;

his body is visibly reduced

to basic operating levels.

Drinking his dark rum, he lets

his ash grow an inch

from his lips and stitch

anxiety into his patients

waiting with form and cheque.

They lie exposed and he,

hunched over each, gets

no complaints, inspecting

wounds like ancient gems

unearthed before the naked

tribals by men in pith helmets;

the natives sucking on gravel,

the mustaches breathing gin.

He knows his trade from

behind Rubix and her quotients,

his ivory desk and ordinance:

merely a corset to a narcotic

bust at every stratum.

Standing at the edge

of manhood, being a child

seems like a dream for The Juke,

a young man who could have

worked a lifetime as Cupid’s fletcher,

his eyes flash like hot knives.

His hard hands are relaxed,

elastic at the joints, sinews tired,

may be pried apart by a small child.

His attention to detail reveals to him

obscenities to which it also accustoms.

On leave from Switchboard repairs,

The Juke is frequently audience to Rubix.

She admires his loyalty, “which may

only be found in youth.”

“The rack of addiction

imposes contact,” riles

the houndman chained

to a radiator, brandishing

his filth and a rusty fork.

“Cabbage fritters and boiled tongue

Is what they eat where my mother’s from,”

dismisses The Juke

- with the peel of his smile,

the tilt of his jaw reveals

what’s tattoo writ ‘Cut Here’

by little monochrome scissors

on a dotted line ear-to-ear.

“It will be a short one, my last breath,

So I mark it where my gasp will end.”

In our darkest reflections, of love and death,

our thoughts are potent with the Colonel.

The Juke remains loyal

as Rubix continues illusion epitome,

“… seemed I ordered Whisky

in The Grand Pump Room

- never met the waiter,

bastard failed introduction.”

She’s sitting despotic

in a broad-stitched leather

booth, conducting: “I was seated such,”

palm to Formica, “at the Colonel’s

eightieth; he soliloquized much

the need for men like you.

His wisdom was of fine stock

and calibre – I’ve had

the girls print the matchbooks.

We thank his heroism,

we’re adorned: my necklace gold,

your hands well oiled!”

Her fingers fat from handling money,

The Juke at once spits from memory:

“I was looking for a voice, he stood there full of cheer and pretense like a shaman on a box

– maybe not soap but some well demanded, highly branded, value-tax added product

of some kind. He asked what I was doing with my life, what I was trying to find

fixing cars with my black thumbnails and hard, thin boots, my loose jaw

bound to get broken, my legs full of bourbon. A laminar flow

of contradicting tones in his voice, I told him exactly where he could go.

He talked of a town called Liberty,

where the people basked in Freedom;

I asked what kind of map he was readin’.”

1 comment:

  1. I think, after consideration, this is my favourite part of the Sharp Noir pentalogy, particularly the heady second stanza.