SPOTLIGHT: Doctor Lazarus by David Hay

1.

So here it is:
the black paranoia is slinking up my veins
and the flash flood of commuters,
spit-fire across the spine of the landscape,
trapped between the black and white geometry
that sections up the once green,
and I lonely as a witch before her pointless trial
stand guilty, porn-ridden, mad beneath a TV sky
of screaming nothingness, suffering a three-day bender on Aldi’s finest gin.

So, here I am,
bound for the long trip back into childhood.
The psychoanalysts with their mystic technologies of eastern sciences
have got me hooked to the vision makers,
and masturbate with their tentative pens across white,
lined pages that sum up my worth.

2.

I am jobless, nearly homeless
in this middling ex-industrial town;
with nothing to sell except my body
and mind to whichever firm can pay enough,
just so I can eat and sleep
under a roof not made of stars– let’s be clear,
there is nothing holy about freezing to death
in a car park, in a town built to make you
brain-dead from the start.

3.

This is a dream record of that inner-self
not orchestrated by social mores.
This is the lying inaccurate, pathetic,
sensitive caring self that mutters
into mirrors and has Kerouacian visions
of some spiritual fulfilment
not located underneath sharp angles of architecture,
that carve up my Britain.
By ‘my’ I mean not ownership but my self,
projected over my home
that formed me as much as my mother;
but I’m stuck in my patch of dirt,
holding firm my grim sunflower,
growing mad and naked below the machinery of stars
with our hearts now blooming
with an innocence that can only be appreciated
after the Fall.

4.

This is incoherent shit.
This is mad I tell myself as I walk those
five steps past the vapourers,
vomiting their crystalline air of French-Moroccan Raspberry
and Dinner Lady Mango Tart into my face and hell
Brexit means Brexit
so I put my hands in my pockets so deep,
that I’m filled with these visions of tragic figures
lost in grief–
in sixty-hour weeks of warehouse shifts–
brothers, sisters I evoke in self-dramatizing style
arms outstretched before people of the dark hours;
we are the same, each one has trodden where the other has fell
and yet here we are, survivors, not of war or famine,
that stuff that makes up epics but of the daily toothbrush,
dead-eyed shower of morning after morning monotony–
you are the heroes, not of the quick battle
and the blood taken or given,
no you are the heroes who chose kind words
and gave a hand to a stranger
who had only his clothes and his mother’s love.

5.

‘Tickets please’
says the oddly chipper balding man
in his workman boots and orange high-vis jacket.
I give him my pass and he gives me a knowing nod,
with that twinkle of sympathy in his eye
that you know means you’re doomed.

Everyone knew what that stop meant.

No one lived there anymore;
it was a graveyard of memories,
that kind where widowed ghosts in
Pedro Paramo would reside in their Mexican midnight
dwellings of no escape
but instead of that lonely Mexican air of venomous heat,
sun-dried trees surrounded by the rotten stench
of Saponaria blossoms of sorrow-filled Comala.
What I have, is a North-West hamlet full with
the stench of putrid blue-bells, haunted not by spectral visions
of deathless hope, but an industrial estate, perched on the hill
above the once fruitful acres
that haunt the now dust-drenched landscape
where the local branch of Unilever Corporation
Research Syndicate resides,
symbolising nothing.

6.

I wait at platform four.
Only a few trains come in and out of their each day–
my fellow fuckups, seeking desperate glee look at our shoes
then at the more prosperous people on the opposite platform,
heading to some office job.

Job. It must be the most mournful word in world–
a painful reminder of how far we’ve fallen–
even their cheap suits and their counterfeit dresses drum
into our beleaguered brains how utterly shit we must be,
to be here.

A few dead-eyed passengers ensnared
by the early morning northern-hour
approach the opposite platform.
I listen carefully as a boy with his jar of newly dug bugs,
talks to his father about his science project,
only to lose their high-pitched posh tones
as they walk to the other end of the platform
and then hear only that disconcerting silence
that penetrates even the spleen.

When life should greet you with a smile
but instead all your met with is your own pathetic loneliness
and realise that teenage morbidity,
you thought you’d left behind
with every other regrettable life decisions,
still clings to you unremittingly,
and your music tastes,
well they are still the same–
hello old friends:
Joy Division and Nick Drake and Nirvana–
yes, I’m bored and old but the comfort of sadness is all I’ve got.

7.

More passengers come to the line and then
the pained broken-winged cry of some desolate eagle
signals the great Victorian beast, dust-filled
from those country wastes,
which hold the entirety of my boyhood.

And so I return to the village of all my parents’ defeats and joys –
that lost country of water-fights and terrified camp-outs
by the train tracks in the small wood that oversaw the farmer’s field,
where trespassers were shot with rice bags
that left bruises as big as workmen’s fists.

But here’s a much needed shotgun blast
through the whimpering flesh of sentimentality–
the shadowed glee of my father–
buried in that overgrown graveyard
where not even human tears fertilise the wildflowers
that grow around his threshold and I used to pick
and tightly held and deeply inhaled in my unreflecting Springs
of my minor childhood tragedies.

In those azure days my parents’ back garden
became the environment of my pet woodlice,
that fascinated and propelled me through those timeless days
of quietness beneath the neighbour’s drooping trees
that cast great shadows across the battlefields of my imagination–
as my parents in some broken anger shouted at one another
until father just short of grabbing her throat,
retreated to his den of nostalgia–
of photographs and clippings and unpublished poems
that haunted him more than his dead parents
and that friend who committed suicide,
who I couldn’t ever mention by name,
even if he was the only man who ever listened to me.

Now do be quiet Mr Thomas Wolfe with your unfashionable tomes
of vivacious diction and South Carolina cadences
that gives breath to my imagination,
which was crippled on the stroke of my twelfth birthday,
when wanking became more enjoyable than
making homes for woodlice in the dirt.
There is no going home. Not really.
The past shat you out and you can never be the same
and only paedophiles try to recapture youth–
once you are bald, you’ll never repay the debt that you owe
those years of non-consciousness building under each seasons’
piercing presence of childhood reverie that brought the stars down
to the dirt, and only the hymned equanimity of the prosody
of Neruda and Whitman brings it back.

Sleep old bards, even in this grey-filled place do your words,
full of raspberry scented ripeness
fill the totality of my thoughts–

‘oh how direfully romantic of you– you deserve two slaps’
I tell myself as the train pulls in and I depart for that ruin that awaits me,
knowing I will savour every ash-covered mouthful.

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