Being a story reconstructed from the smashed poetic fragments found littered around the bar of the Cabaret Populaire as the Last Poets took the Last Metro. A poetic vase, if you will, painstakingly rebuilt from broken china. A mosaic in which you may find a snatch, a phrase, a lost metaphor of your own work staring right back at you. Poets all being dealers in detritus.
He hadn’t shaved in months. His household now held more terror than the average. He needed cash and hash. The only solution was to go outside for a breather, a smoke. Pretend to be fully human. He looked in on the old lady first but she was still snoring. Reaching across the bed, he tore some stamps from her collection. Penny blacks. He’d sell ‘em down the pool hall.
Getting old, but still wearing tight jeans at sixty. Some do not dream of aging together with another, he thought, but of aging together with oneself. Too late for all that now, he was stuck with her till bad health or disaster got one of ‘em.
He shut the door to the house and stepped into the street. That old blind cat was lying out in the sun across the way. He could swear it was looking at him through its milky eyes.
And the high-wire children were up to their tricks again, on a clothes line slung between buildings 2 stories up. Conning the crowd, deft fingers pick pocketing. He’d been like them once. Stole a certain lady’s heart and her cat as well. But all that was long ago, now their life was like being trapped in some grim poster for Help The Aged.
He pulled his hat down to hide his soul. Paris was nothing but a dense village, but at least it wasn’t Oregon. His thoughts rattled around under his hat, like rats trapped in a mental cage. Someone was singing Mystical Wife, he could hear it coming through an open window. That used to be her favourite song, back in the day. He could picture her now, shuffling to the kitchen, feet like stones in her shoes, eating marzipan. God, she gives me slowness, he thought.
At the pool hall on the corner the drunks were already toasted. He took a position at the bar among the fallen and the furious. Dylan was there, cracking the balls, got a good hit, his head horizontal and held high. He looked away from Dylan and back to his drink. Somewhere he thought he could hear music. Doom, doom, doom.
‘Can you hear the drums?’ he said to the bum next to him.
‘There are no drums,’ the man said. ‘Who do you think you are?’
He shrugged. He didn’t want the hassle of a fight, just wanted to sell those penny blacks. He got up. Sailed, chin sideways through the beer. Things had changed here since last time. The barman had papered the wall with rejection slips, for one thing. Must have gotten a bad case of literary pretensions.
There in the back was that girl Pia and her beatnik friends. “I can’t wait to get old,” she was saying. “I plan to switch to the funkiest, smelliest brand of cigarettes and spend my time writing dirty books, butt naked.”
His connection was there. He sold the stamps. He got out of that madhouse. And then, right there on the street he was run down by an ambulance. His pockets stuffed with dollar bills.