This transcript is me blurting it all out – evening drinks, nature diving and
my next reading I’ll make the entrance shoved into a vase, brought in on a
ceramic plate; the expectant hush of my flowering. You see me thin and twitching
like a straw? The blast of tug and love made this. Were you taken by the
behemoth I rolled out? Make note, any event however small can be lifted and
glazed, fire-friezed into the shadow fight of two gristle lumps – you on top
or me – strung on a correspondence of coughs and chorus songs from films of
I walked through rattling streets such as presage a storm. Dare I describe
the hall? Dusted with scurf from clergy spared the stake but moulded into
All my lovers came with me. I keep their names on a spreadsheet and tally
details with meteorological records or accounts of migrating birds. Pity the
wind-whacked bundles of feathers, travelling from rock to rock.
Why are torn pages (of what I needn’t say) often found in
lay-bys; I know their uses, but the ripping afterwards?
Thoughts of flight now obsess those who slim to achieve weightlessness.
I’ve collected antiquarian accounts of failed attempts. In various European
countries birdmen donned wings of cloth and ascended.
Just off the A34 lie woods and hunting lodges as if taken from a folk tale. I
never encounter any poets there, but a local man is researching the untold
history of this lawless region.
Authority clanks into place with each word like a barbed drawbridge.
Black drizzle knocks cold off the windscreen,
the hard shoulder beckons into the service station.
Once I dreamed about the thread I’d find and unwind.
“Sam with your eyes black as tyres, standing by my door,
does the light remember you?”
He knows the nonsense of my wandering, dry as a prune.
All afternoon I waited for the boat. Between vicious showers I
traversed the town, attempting entry to every premises, barred by
And I heard voices inside.
“Wherever you go my lad, I’ll be there to hold your hand.
If a mackerel fisherman bags you in his smock,
I’ll pick the dry scales from your curls.”
Just with this, please know I wouldn’t do anything. Days which swell
blubbery and diffuse as a jellyfish, contain sting enough to smart this
vagueness – quicken the pulse then under, like a horned sandman.
a number of bastards succeed in visiting these places every year. I’m afraid
you just have to accept it. Try and spot them on the plane or by the luggage
Flies and dead heat: that directive not to flush paper is impossible. Yes I
know I’d feel different if I had to clear the blockage.
Rubbish City for the Brits; Garbage City for the Yanks. A Christian community
built, well; built on a rubbish tip. Inspiration for the poets, oh God –
there’s so much paper in the world and shit sticks to it but recycling gets
the UN and Princess Royal to visit, buying greeting cards and talking of
Cairo’s “world leaders in renewables”. I cannot see a wind-farm there.
Security followed us everywhere in the Islamic quarter. That tout who looked
like Jean Reno and was off to Newcastle to work as a bouncer, pointing out
our tail in the spice alley by Madrassa el-Ghuri. Real saffron, no yellow
That boiling in my guts was caused by a dodgy kofta in Aswan. What a snotty
fool I was. We ate by the Nile (the heat itself sickening) but my food didn’t
arrive. I flashed looks at the Nubian and then it comes too quickly, from
scratch; Christ, I even noticed it was pink. Coke is supposed to kill the
bugs, well not this time.
Abu Simbel desert convoy, I counted twenty-eight coaches: quite a target. Our
driver racing the other leaders, overtaking on the hard miles before dawn, I
think only me awake, watching for the sun: 5:28 am. I caught it; tiny then
huge all at once. Already my guts were bad, but exhilaration better than
Agatha Christie at the Old Cataract Hotel, maybe not murder but way high for
one drink, so harsh and good the blue yellow heat: hard not to write a
postcard to Slough.
Darow camel market then camel meat in the market. I sneaked a shot but the
butcher saw me. The vocabulary for smell is hopeless so I’ll just say: a
sweet leather tang blown by flies, the carcass still had a tail.
Donkey or mule like a Fistful of Dollars, above the Valley of the Queens, by
the Tombs of the Nobles, down to the Valley of the Kings; as my hands sweat,
this is it, one slip, but so what: I know nothing, perched above Deir
el-Bahri, temple of Hatshepsut (scene of the massacre); it’s immortal
The worst place is the Red Sea resort Hurghada, which the Russians built to
remind them of Chernobyl. I bought a torch for 60 Egyptian – £6 – because the
bloke got it while we ate.
The burning bush at St Catherine’s monastery, a fire extinguisher alongside.
The steps of repentance climbing Mount Sinai; we went by camel, not crawling
like a penitent would. Past the hollow where Elijah was fed by ravens, up to
the cleft where God sheltered Moses and the summit cuts a red shadow.
Down after sunset, then only stars.
© Paul Sutton, 2005
Paul Sutton’s collection Broadsheet
Asphyxia is available from: original
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