Ketamine and the Great Poets. COLD LIPS 05: NIALL MCDEVITT x JOHNY BROWN

Niall McDevitt (centre) pictured with artist Julie Goldsmith and playwright, poet and actor, David Erdos at The Social, for a Cold Lips party

Irish poet Niall McDevitt lives in West London. He is the author of three critically acclaimed collections of poetry: b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo (International Times, 2013) and Firing Slits: Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016). His next collection will be BABYLON (a neoliberal theodicy) And Other Poems. Read more of his work at poetopography.wordpress.com, where among his battles with the ironies of totemic values of words, you will find how to join his psychographic historical trails across London, poet’s guides to literary figures such as Rimbaud, Blake and Shakespeare.

McDevitt’s contribution to Cold Lips 05, our lesser published edition, Mauve Baudelaire, takes inspiration from a performance of Johny Brown’s The Assassins play outside the London home of Rimbaud and Verlaine, at 8 Royal Court Street, NW1, in October 2007, as a call to preserve the site of heritage. McDevitt played Arthur Rimbaud. The late Ken Campbell wore a Baudelaire wig – leaving Rimbaud’s lover of this time, Paul Verlaine. For context and entertainment, we are proud to also share below the original great work. McDevitt’s response is 23 quatrains long – a quatrain being a stanza in a poem that has exactly four lines. Described as an homage to the experimental theatre man, Ken Campbell, who died just over 11 years ago, 31 August 2008, our poet, plays Rimbaud, with Ken Campbell as Baudelaire. A crossing of the stars.

Photo by Nev Hawkins of Ken Campbell as Baudelaire and Niall McDevitt as Rimbaud

Beneath this contribution, both as laid out Cold Lips 05, and the pure copy, runs the FULL PLAY by Johny Brown, it is a landmark piece of writing from the halcyon of 2000. Johny Brown is the folklore legend frontman of Band of Holy Joy, one of the longest running bands in England, in the realm of Shane McGowan and Alabama 3. His prolific and admirable genius make him one of Richard Cabut’s (Dark Entries, the novella published by Cold Lips) favourite bands (from his post-punk reviewing days).

It sees Johny playfully funny, posed between two eras when London was a freer zone. Originally he wrote the play in the haze of the Tardis, a venue beneath Farringdon station, which birthed The Idler magazine, and hosted many a party, and performance of Johny’s theatre.

We would love to perform this soon! And must!

Johny Brown is also the curator of Bad Punk, the long-running, groundbreaking Friday night show on Resonance FM which experiments with audio and literature, which are all available online, featuring the best of new theatre and radio writing, and his new show of boundless action is on Neon Hospice.

MAUVE BAUDELAIRE (23 QUATRAINS)

i.m. Ken Campbell 

1

the day of the show was itself a one-off

with alchemists and numerologists

with geomancers and gastromancers 

for once sportingly agreed

2

nothing was normal this autumn matin.

the weather was shrouding wondrous squadrons.

in the impregnated streets 

below the high mansard roof

3

which one poet had already dubbed ‘The Ship of Horus’

and a rival poet the ‘arc-en-ciel’

no traffic was abrading the human ear or nose

how could this be?

4

the Sunday silence was a sage-brush

of noisomeness to purify the space.

below the red-herring garret, below the blue-wine brig

which had once bled tiger stripes

5

the house we were safeguarding

stood angel-white

but if you looked close-up 

paint flakes were peeling

6

like decadent feathers 

off moulting albatrosses.

below the meccan door with its goddess number 

was a cast-iron Georgian-era boot-scraper

7

which – obviously – our poets in question

had luxuriated in never using

but this ‘decroittoir’ was a talismanic aid 

as we time-travelled from 2007 to 1873

8

where thankfully too, no steampunk traffic 

– not a chariot, not an omnibus, not a penny-farthing –

was interfering with or molesting us.

perhaps Metatron or Astarte or Ogmios had arranged it?

9

perhaps Thespis himself? but 

– and here was the heroism of it – incredibly…

roadworks had blocked off 

the junction of Plender Street and Royal College Street 

10

– the whole perpendicular of it! 

nay, the very Hyle circling 

Fludd’s inverted triangle –

with a cordon of illuminated red plastic crowd barriers

11

embossed with one word: CROWLEY… 

and Sunday being the workers’ sabbath

the arena stood empty!

(I had seen a cordon of CROWLEY barriers before 

12 

erected in a fume-filled carpark in SE1

as part of another, much bigger, 24-hour caper

but when I’d pointed out the occult chic 

and uttered the surname to rhyme with ‘foully’

13

the structure had spontaneously collapsed like a set of dominos. 

how the colin-demon cursed!)

here I was more careful.

footfall – which too often passes by –

14

was coming our way and stopping 

(or hoof-fall to judge by the positively goatish 

Pans and Baphomets hobbling to the zone.)

I directed auditors inside the druggy neon surround

15

where piles of cement-bags and sand-bags 

became the communal powdery seating

of a novel but one-off institution:

ladies and gentlemen! The Crowley Theatre

16

it was October.

more and more eccentrics kept popping up 

from the cracks like illegal mushrooms. 

the cast were flaneuring to and fro, limbering up, 

17

sanely disguised as insanely French poets 

or the people they’d made suffer

scripts in hands (like real poets)

sticky moustaches nestled on stiff upper lips

18

conferring on such pronunciations 

as Club des Hashischins etc.

and with the gamut of ‘Allo ‘Allo! accents 

transmogrifying London into Leun’deun

19

it seemed the elemental, the ether and the empyrean 

had deployed their full vanguards

when – just as the show was due 

for a final drumming and trumpeting –

20

the man who was the very embodiment 

of the concept ‘one-off’

materialised as suddenly as 

a genie from a silver spout

21

with a presence both English and exotic

goblinesque and Gurdjieffian

commanding the currency of eyes 

to flow in his direction

22

magician-like he pulled 

a couple of items from his tartan wheelie-bag:

two of what must have been a thousand and one 

comic mask tokens therein

23

‘is mauve okay for Baudelaire?” he inquired 

before donning a starlet’s mauve wig 

and a gold robe shimmering to the floor

where we stood attendant 

 Niall McDevitt

(Note: in October 2007 a performance of Johny Brown’s play 

The Assassins took place in the streets of Mornington Crescent 

outside the Rimbaud/Verlaine house at 8 Royal College Street 

as part of a campaign to save the property from illegal development.)

THE ASSASSINS 

A play on love and poets by 

Johny Brown

The legend who is the folk hero, and most uncompromising, unrelenting punk in Britain – Johny Brown, pictured with filmmaker and collaborator, the artist Inga Tillere, and James Finn on guitar
Twitter. Instagram. Johny.co.uk

Featuring the cities of Paris, London and Brussels

And travelling twice aboard

The Eurostar 

Involving the substances

Absinthe Ketamine Guns Fish 

With the following characters portrayed

Paul

Arthur

The London Poet

Genesis B Wilde

In this the year

2007

From now until forever…

SCENE ONE – FIRE IN THE BOOKSTORE

The play starts in a pretentiously quiet and reverently dark bookstore in Paris. Our attention is focused on two characters. They are both poets. An unruly young ARTHUR is prowling the aisles whilst the elder, and more fastidious of the two, a proud, if nervous, and certainly lovesick, PAUL, works his way through a pile of books.  Maybe he is looking for something, a worthwhile line, a spark of inspiration perhaps? What he is actually doing is selling the books to buy beer. And help fund an impending trip. 

SCENE TWO – BLOOD ON THE EUROSTAR 

The trip is to purportedly partake in Rimbaud Mass in Camden Town where they will pay homage to the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine.  Consequently our two modern vagabonds slightly the worse for wear are on the Eurostar bound for St Pancras station, London. Arthur is scribbling in a notebook whilst Paul looks on in disdain. Arthur scratches himself constantly whilst Paul is content to merely emanate bad breath and old age. 

SCENE 3 – TERROR ON THE CONCOURSE

Our two scum protagonists are on the concourse of St Pancras. Sirens sound and strip downs are the order of the day. A routine terror alert is in effect. Not that our poets notice, they walk through blithely.

SCENE 4 – FISH ON THE PAVEMENT 

Paul and Arthur walk out of the new Eurostar terminal and through the backstreets of St Pancras towards Number 8 Royal College Street. Here they meet THE LONDON POET and his savage band of literary cronies. There is a ceremony with fish. Paul coerces Arthur into reading some of his writing.

SCENE FIVE – FEAR IN THE LAGER 

Arthur and Paul are sat in a Camden Town pub nursing pints of lager with absinthe chasers. Arthur scribbles furiously whilst Paul studies the play of light upon his golden glass in the warmth and the glow of a liquid afternoon. Eventually they converse. It is not a good conversation. Arthur wants out. Paul has a solution. Arthur betters it. They head back to St Pancras. They will journey on to Brussels.

SCENE SIX – DRUNK ON THE EUROSTAR, 

Our two scum protagonists are once more sat on the Eurostar. Arthur is scribbling furiously in his notebook whilst Paul is taking surreptitious slurps from a pewter hip flask, looking quite suicidal. A priest…GENESIS B WILDE… joins their company. The priest opens up a book, and suddenly quite unbidden, raises his hands and begins quoting…

SCENE SEVEN – FEAST ON THE FLOOR   

They hole up in a hotel room in Brussels, Arthur is scribbling furiously, a bored irritated and indolent Paul interrupts him. Arthur finally gives Paul the love he wants, the lusting he has been after. It’s not enough, it never is.

SCENE EIGHT – SHOT IN THE HOTEL

Arthur ventures out into the Belgian night searching for some kind of action Paul stays on the bed where he burrows deep into his troubled psyche. He toys constantly with a gun, he pulls out a notebook and tries to write a few sentences but nothing comes. Paul puts the barrel to his temple but just can’t pull the trigger. Arthur returns to his hotel having had the time of his life. Paul turns the gun on Arthur.

SCENE NINE – LIGHT IN THE JAIL

Last scene, prison cell, it has the same gloomy reverential air as the bookstore. Arthur comes to visit, then leaves again. Paul steps forward. The muse has returned, he has found his flow once more.

SCENE TEN – POET IN THE BARS

Paul now steps forward, he has a book in his hand, a heroic figure, he finally proves this to be so.

SCENE ONE – FIRE IN THE BOOKSTORE

The play starts in a pretentiously quiet and reverently dark bookstore in Paris. Our attention is focused on two characters. An unruly ARTHUR prowls the aisles whilst a proud, if nervous, and certainly lovesick, PAUL works his way through a pile of books. Maybe he is looking for something, a worthwhile line, a spark of inspiration perhaps?

What he is actually doing is assessing their worth to sell.  Presently he looks up and out at us.

PAUL

The function of poetry is to preserve moments of extreme sensation and unique impressions. This is what I have striven to do these past few years. For a moment, for one slender volume I thought I was there, and caught a glimpse of my worth. The glimpse however, proved to be elusive. Lately I find that the words dance in my head but refuse to come when bidden. 

Will I ever write a great poem? This is the question I do not quite have the guts to voice aloud. Will I ever have the presence to match any of these classics, this collection I’ve built up over the years? Every one of these books so earnestly read, these elusive discourses on the complexity of love’s existence, writers who defined my spirit… reduced now to mere tokens… but then what other purpose could they serve, these works, inflamed as I am with the confusion of desire and the needing conflict it brings… no, beer tokens it must be… because not one of these worthy books is able to speak to me… and no matter how I try, my word’s presently fail to match them…

Proudly pointing at Arthur

My new protégé however! His verse is a touch primitive but a few months with me, and you watch, he’ll learn a thing or two. I’ve told my wife it’s a poetic liaison. Unfortunately my wife has always failed to understand even the most rudimentary poetic notions. Best not mention that side of things though, eh, for fear of upsetting delicate sensibilities.

Dreamily!

Look at him…

My family and friends all think he’s a touch arrogant, depraved is what they call him, but I find their presumptions most offensive, based as they no doubt are on envy

Rather you than me my friend! 

Thank God it’s me… I find it tiresome their simplistic advice.

Watch how you go, is all I can say.

Nonsense!

No one here would like to see you make a fool of yourself, again.

He makes me feel so… now. And I’m taking him to London tomorrow to pay homage to something lost of yesteryear. My past will inform his future. I mean, he doesn’t appreciate this yet, but… Poetic tryst! Master and pupil!

Aside

Sir I say, these books are priceless, and you offer me, how much?

Return to the audience

There is a happening occurring over on the other side of the water… and we just have to be there.

Aside

OK, OK, I’ll take it, I’ll take it, but please cash… in my hand… now

Return to the audience

It will be a great journey, an absolute misadventure, indeed. Tonight though we hit the modish bars, other writers must know of our trip, and our intentions.

We get our first look at Arthur as he approaches the counter. Love’s young dream is in fact a stylistic little nightmare. Possessing all the beauty arrogance and petulance of the young and twisted gifted! He is a she inside a torn RAMBO t shirt and looks great, and is bored. Paul has done the business of selling his books and has money in his hands. He waves the note.

I have the necessary funds… 

ARTHUR

Hope you’re not going to be an embarrassment, again.

PAUL

I only drink to keep up my reputation.

ARTHUR

What reputation might that be?

PAUL

A reputation that has me absolutely enslaved!

ARTHUR

This place is like a prison.

PAUL

This place is the most revered bookstore in the city.

ARTHUR

All these books… so stifling!

PAUL

And you a would-be poet, shame on you, follow the word and the path leads to the ultimate freedom…look… these books are our very lifeblood, this is the standard, this is what you aspire too.

ARTHUR

Sixteen years of age and it’s come to this.

PAUL

Your youthful complexities just go straight over the top of my head!

ARTHUR

I’ve noticed.

PAUL

I do love you.

ARTHUR

Whatever!

PAUL

Come on…

ARTHUR

What?

PAUL

Why can’t things be simple?

ARTHUR

You tell me?

PAUL

I want you, you want me…

ARTHUR

Simple huh?

PAUL

Of course!

ARTHUR

Your wife, does she find the equation this simple?

PAUL

Ah…

ARTHUR

You’re fucking with people’s heads, make a choice.

PAUL

Chill Arthur…

ARTHUR

Don’t patronise me, we made a pact. If you haven’t got the nous or the guts to stick to it, then go find some other mug

PAUL

There is so much I have to teach you.

ARTHUR

Shame there is nothing I want to learn.

PAUL

We could be the best poets of our generation!

ARTHUR

I HATE my generation. Listen, Paul, things aren’t really happening, I’m cutting out.

PAUL

We’re just starting to do it all.

ARTHUR

We’re doing nothing. 

PAUL

I can’t let you go like this.

ARTHUR

What can you do to make me stay?

PAUL

Take you away from this for a start!

ARTHUR

Where can you possibly take me?

PAUL

London!

ARTHUR

London?

PAUL

Absinthe!

ARTHUR

Absinthe?

PAUL

They sell it in the bars over there!

ARTHUR

They sell it in the bars everywhere!

PAUL

Yes but it’s our cultural heritage, we must be ambassadors for licentiousness, it is our irrational poetic duty to destroy a few bottles on foreign shores.

ARTHUR

On its own, not a good enough reason!

PAUL

Ketamine!

ART

Ketamine?

PAUL

Absolutely!

ART

And where will you get Ketamine from?

PAUL

I have my connections on The London Scene!

ART

Not impressed!

PAUL

Rimbaud Mass…

ARTHUR

What’s that?

PAUL

A gathering of the poets to celebrate Rimbaud and Verlaine! The mass takes place in the house they once shared. A house where they wrote their best work, work that is an inspiration to us all. The best, the very best, will be there. 

ARTHUR

Better than me, I doubt it! Where in London?

PAUL

Camden Town. Four hours from Gare du Nord on the Eurostar. If we catch the first train we’ll be there for Pub o clock…

ARTHUR

…and you’ll drink gallons of vile English beer whilst sat in the corner of some dingy tourist bar feeling sorry for yourself and the state of French poetry, slagging off the football and threatening suicide. Thanks, but really, no thanks.

PAUL

I think you’ll find I’m a different animal abroad.

ARTHUR

No restraints?

PAUL

Totally unfettered!

ARTHUR

Passionate love?

PAUL

Burns with intensity!

ARTHUR

Fires the purest poetry?

PAUL

Every sense!

ARTHUR

Because you know we have put the poison in our veins?

PAUL

Yes, yes, and now is the time of the assassins!

ARTHUR

You promise to strike ruthlessly?

PAUL

In every shabby run down London pub!

ARTHUR

You promise to spread the word like disease?

PAUL

On every cig-butt strewn street corner!

ARTHUR

You better not let me down

Arthur stubs his cigarette out on Paul’s forehead, who in turn grabs Arthur, shakes him

PAUL

What on earth do you want?

Arthur jumps up on counter, books go flying.

ARTHUR

I want the poetry of truth and depravity. I want dreams sugared on absinthe. Wild abandoned thoughts reeling with the power of toxic words, words dropped like dirty bombs primed and waiting to explode. I want stray beauties howling on my arm hanging on my every utterance enchaining me with garlands of flowers as I search deep inside myself consuming the poison within. 

PAUL

Arthur…

ARTHUR

Shut up Paul I haven’t finished, swallowing the essence letting the fatal wisdom rest on the tip of my tongue, the serpent ever ready to strike. We will pull through torture, we will need all our faith and superhuman strength

Arthur pours a bottle over his head. Smashes the bottle on his skull sticks shard into skin, licks blood and broken glass and alcohol… lights a cigarette, pages go up in flames…

We will show ourselves to be utterly criminal. Superbly sick of mind and body and spirit. Supreme savants, sublimely damned, we will arrive at the unknown and I tell you another thing. You can stick your fucking Paris its boring bookstores and its mediocre Mallarme’s and all the other revered stiffs up your arse, this place is nowhere.

PAUL

This barren field we find ourselves in, this desert of boredom, this wasteland of spent sensuality?

ARTHUR

Yeah, and all the other shit words it takes to describe our meaningless existence… what’s wanted by this heart as deep as hell’s own hole is a fucked up bitch with death in its soul. What is it Paul? I mean, who are we?

Paul stares in shock whilst shuddering with excitement. Arthur jumps down from the table and throws his arm around Paul’s shoulder.

We are the assassins let’s go and destroy London.

PAUL

Oh, ‘witch with eyes of ebony, child that’s up all night, splendid filthiness, epitome of meanness

ARTHUR

You write that?

PAUL

Baudelaire

ARTHUR

Garbage!

PAUL

You can better it?

ARTHUR

Effortlessly, ‘Blind machine programmed with cruel deeds I drink what mankind bleeds I DON’T GIVE A FUCK DO YOU HEAR. I DRINK, I DRINK, I DRINK…I DRINK WHAT MANKIND BLEEDS.

Laughing as the bookstore burns, Arthur bites his forearm and offers the bleeding flesh up to Paul, who shudders but laps it up all the same. Rolling and tumbling they depart the stage.

BLACKOUT

SCENE TWO – BLOOD ON THE EUROSTAR 

Our two modern vagabonds slightly the worse for wear are on the Eurostar bound for St Pancras station, London. Arthur is scribbling in a notebook whilst Paul looks on in disdain. Arthur scratches himself constantly whilst Paul is content to merely emanate bad breath and old age.

PAUL

Ah, I can’t help but wonder what intense adolescent thoughts are being channelled through such furious scribblings

ARTHUR

None of your business!

PAUL

You resent my interest in your nascent writings?

ARTHUR

Why don’t you write?

PAUL

My thoughts reign supreme in my head for now.

ARTHUR

Waiting for that divine inspirational moment eh, when you can conquer the pen and truly rule the page?

PAUL

The situation just has to be right.

ARTHUR

Otherwise one finds oneself committing third-rate verse to paper?

PAUL

My literary executors deserve more out of me than that!

ARTHUR

It’s always comedown or blast with you isn’t it?

PAUL

Absolutely!

ARTHUR

Either way I never see you write.

PAUL

Hmmmm!

ARTHUR

So what are you going to do?

PAUL

I’m going to have a drink!

ARTHUR

I’m sure you’ll have several.

PAUL

I will, have no fear.

ARTHUR

I don’t know what fear is.

PAUL

So juvenile, so delinquent!

ARTHUR

At least I’m true to myself.

PAUL

What do you mean by that?

ARTHUR

You, your situation, shacked up with a woman you don’t love. In fact a woman I’d say you hate, given the kickings you dispense after you’ve drunk yourself into oblivion.

PAUL

Maybe there is a love there you can’t yet comprehend.

ARTHUR

What I don’t understand is all these poetic declarations of one love and undying lust that you make?

PAUL

This is who I am.

ARTHUR

I don’t believe you.

PAUL

I don’t expect you to believe me. It’s all just different facets of my life. I appreciate the fact you won’t really understand… after all you’re still young… and like any youth that’s yet to find the means to articulate his vision more than a touch idealistic.

ARTHUR

Totally patronising.

PAUL

And one day you’ll learn that there’s more to life than posturing, some of us have responsibilities. I am a poet, a published poet.

ARTHUR

Well done you.

PAUL

I am also a family man.

ARTHUR

No true visionary would ever get hung up on that domestic thing. I mean what are you Paul, really, pussy or poet?

PAUL

Poet!

ARTHUR

Prove it!

PAUL

Pardon?

ARTHUR

Your worth!

PAUL

How?

ARTHUR

Hands out!

Paul holds his hands out on the table.

Palms up

Paul twists his hands so the palms face up

Look me in the eyes

Paul looks him in the eyes. Arthur pulls a knife out.

ARTHUR

Do you trust me?

PAUL

I trust you

ARTHUR

Implicitly?

PAUL

Whatever.

Arthur sticks his knife, once twice through the palms of Paul. Paul screams and the rest of the carriage subsides into a shocked silence. Paul is hurt but he affects a brave face. He doesn’t want to lose the respect of his younger compatriot.

ARTHUR

So you love me?

PAUL

Implicitly!

Arthur and Paul now lock into a gaze of total passion and one ness, oblivious to anyone else, on the edge of a world that only they know.

ARTHUR

Leave them they’re nothing, we together are everything, you know that.

PAUL

You know where all our money comes from.

ARTHUR

What money do you need? What more do you need when you could be with me?

PAUL

I need the responsibility 

ARTHUR

Of course you do.

PAUL

Maybe affection comes into it too.

ARTHUR

And all the sentimental hetero shit that goes with it.

PAUL

Pragmatic!

ARTHUR

Yeah pragmatic old pussy and that does not a poet, a published poet, make.

PAUL

And what constitutes…

ARTHUR

You’ll never be a true poet until you truly give yourself up.

PAUL

And you?

ARTHUR

I’ll die for every thought of every word for every line of any poem that I’ve ever committed to paper and all that lies behind.

PAUL

I guess you’ll get your chance to prove it soon enough.

ARTHUR

What do you mean by that?

PAUL

I do believe we’re pulling in to St Pancras!

BLACKOUT

SCENE 3 – TERROR ON THE CONCOURSE

Our two scum protagonists are on the concourse of St Pancras. Arthur has a good look round this new terrain he has just stepped onto. Sirens sound and strip downs are the order of the day. A routine terror alert is in effect. Not that our poets notice, they walk through blithely.

ART

So this is St Pancras, the new temple of travel they’ve been trumpeting so incessantly, looks just like any other brand new retail experience to me.

PAU

Don’t worry about it, we’re just passing through.

ART

And time is passing through us.

PAU

Time is passing through us?

ART

We are possessed by the flame of the immortals Paul, time is passing through us, and time is running out.

PAU

I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about!

ART

Can’t you feel the burning spirit possessing your soul?

PAU

I feel a sudden irritation coming on.

ART

It demands that we carry the flame.

PAU

We’re going to be late for mass!

ART

We are the bearers of truth and light and liberty.

PAU

Quaint notion I must say.

ARTHUR

Those custom’s bastards confiscated my knives

PAUL

I think you were lucky

ARTHUR

Arseholes took away my tear gas!

PAUL

Surprised they let us into the country!

ARTHUR

Yeah, we were going nowhere until you utterly brown nosed them.

PAUL

They had us down as a pair of terrorists.

ARTH

I thought that’s what we are?

PAUL

It’s an extremely sensitive issue, an issue that needs sensitive handling, and the diplomat role is one I’m particularly good at.

ARTHUR

I need a new weapon. I’m going to buy a gun to play with and then I want to find some crack whore to fuck.

PAUL

Let’s go and find a bar that sells absinthe first, or a good pint of beer at the very least.

ARTHUR

Hold on, I just got to say something to these customs folk here, something for all these cameras trained on us. Statement of intent!

Arthur faces off.

We stand for the liberation of dream life, the abolition of boundaries, especially the border between imagination and reality, for which no earthly passport applies. By God I got my ticket to live. So…

Arthur gives the time honoured one finger salute. The sirens fade out, and they pass on their way.

BLACKOUT

SCENE 4 – FISH ON THE PAVEMENT 

Paul and Arthur are walking out of the new Eurostar terminal and through the backstreets of St Pancras towards Number 8 Royal College Street. 

ARTHUR

This place has changed and then some!

PAUL

Pardon?

ARTHUR

Look, remember how this used to be… the glowering arches all urchin black and sick and mucky soot ridden with the smoke from the furnaces that stirred a monstrous sunset through the sad grey mist of the never ending fog?

PAUL

No.

ARTHUR

It’s all you used to talk about. You wrote a great line…

PAUL

I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.

ARTHUR

I’ve been here before.

PAUL

Nonsense.

ARTHUR

No, it does, look, the street, that arch, this window, I have definitely been here before.

PAUL

In your dreams perhaps!

ARTHUR

So what happens now?

PAUL

The pursuit of poetic truths and true liberty…

They have turned up Royal College Street, poets are milling about. They look frustrated. Paul walks through them when he gets to number 8 and then knocks on the door, THE LONDON POET steps forward, he wears a stripey suit jacket and red converse and has a beret on his hat which cannot conceal his lank straggly hair. Behind him a re several clones. Paul turns to him.

Rimbaud Mass…?

POET

Journalists?

PAUL

Poets, from Paris.

POET

Ah, I thought perhaps you had come to highlight the case and spread word of our cause to the wider world, but if you’re a poet…

PAUL

A published poet!

POET

You’ve arrived just in time to find this is no time at all.

PAUL

What gives?

POET

The property boys have moved in.

PAUL

Moved in where?

POET

A developer has bought up the house.

PAUL

And turn it into a museum perhaps?

POET

His plan is to divide it up into cramped maisonettes to rent out at a keen rent.

PAUL

Keen rents generally mean crude tenants, I hope the future occupants respect the place.

POET

Eventually he may sell the whole enterprise on for profit.

PAUL

Shocking and mercenary behaviour I must say. 

POET

No one but us purists here seems to care. 

PAUL

The media have shown no interest?

POET

If our cause was celebrity driven we may garner a paragraph in a gossip column, alas, no great Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse figure has stepped forward. 

PAUL

And the media remains indifferent?

POET

The media remains indifferent.

PAUL

What about the great institutions?

POET

What about the great institutions?

PAUL

The Society of French Poets for a start?

POET

They see it as an English matter, not their concern. 

PAUL

There must be other established houses?

POET

All the other established houses have stopped returning our calls.

PAUL

A disgraceful state of affairs, I must say.

POET

But what can we do?

PAUL

You must protest most vociferously and use every resource at hand to save this fine building.

POET

We’re giving it our best shot.

PAUL

And what a fine building it is, even in such a distressed state, especially in such a distressed state, this place…

Paul turns to Arthur and regards the building with a flourish of his hand.

Turns back to the Poet.

…where they wrote they’re best work to boot. 

Site of pilgrimage for so many poets, and now, to see it destroyed by philistines and today of all days… 

POET

We grow more pessimistic each hour that passes.

PAUL

And in the meantime… Rimbaud Mass?

POET

The moment sees us at a loss and stood here on the pavement.

A collective tear is shed by the poets, more of an anguished angry helpless wailing really. Paul looks around him.

PAUL

Why don’t we just do it in the road?

POET

Out here?

PAUL

What an excellent space the road-works have provided for us.

ARTHUR

Ah, Paul, come on…

PAUL

These barriers, designed by Crowley no less.

The poet looks around him…

POET

By God it’s true, Crowley is amongst us!

PAUL

They make an excellent ring to frame our actions.

POET

For any man brave enough to step forward, yes indeed.

PAUL

Inside which, this tarmac ampitheatre will serve as good as any soundstage…

POET

I see it… these sandbags will make fine seats.

PAUL

This traffic cone a more than adequate loudhailer.

POET

And this spade, what sneaking metaphorical use could we put this spade to, perhaps?

PAUL

Hey, pass that bottle of wine over, by God, we’re not poets if we can’t declaim where we stand.

There is a hubbub of excitement as the poet’s mill round, and the bottle is passed. Sandbags are dragged out and a fluorescent traffic sign serves as a podium. There is a reflective vest that can be worn by each successive bard as he reads. The lead poet pulls out a large wet fish.

POET

We will re-enact the famous fish scene.

PAUL

I know it not sir?

POET

You know not the famous scene whence Rimbaud was hanging out that window there, and Verlaine journeys home carrying a fish?

PAUL

Verlaine, has on his person, a fish?

POET

A fish such as this fine fish, sir.

The poet brings out a fish, a large wet flappy floppy fish.

PAUL

And what then appertains?

POET

Verlaine looks up at Rimbaud and denigrates his appearance, Rimbaud still being in some state of disarray and undress at what Verlaine perceives to be a most civilised hour of the afternoon, when maybe a French lesson should be given to some child of Camden, to bring in much necessary funds…indeed Verlaine wastes no time in denigrating the appearance of Rimbaud.

PAUL

Can you recall the precise words used?

POET

I believe he called him a…

The poet leans forward and whispers into Paul’s ear. Paul looks shocked.

PAUL

Say that again.

The poet leans forward and whispers again into Paul’s ear. Again Paul is shocked.

PAUL

And again…

The poet says it again, this time spitting on the ground to emphasise the contempt such a slur engenders. Paul is most shocked.

PAUL

My God, how did Rimbaud react to such an engendered slur?

POET

Rimbaud ran down into the street and faced Verlaine off… ‘You’re calling me that, and this, and that, and this, and that, and all the others and have you seen what a stupid twat you look like, stood there with that stinking fish in your ugly hands?’ And he grabs the fish off Verlaine and slaps him around the face with it. Wet scales stinging the elder poets face… like thus…

As if to emphasise his point the poet slaps Paul around the face. Paul is taken aback.

PAUL

I cannot imagine Verlaine reacting too kindly to such an action.

POET

No sir.

PAUL

I imagine that Verlaine grabs the fish back and treats the younger poet to a cold-scaled slimy rebuke that stung thus…

Paul slaps the poet back with the fish, fresh across the face.

POET

Yes sir.

The poet grabs the fish back and slaps Paul, who then slaps the poet again. Other fishes are brought into play and a ceremonial orgy of respectful fish slapping cheeks begins. Arthur looks on and eventually begins to laugh joyously. Suddenly the poet turns on Arthur.

POET

What you laughing at?

ARTHUR

I’m not sure.

POET

Just thought you’d intrude on our sensitive ceremony here eh?

ARTHUR

No sir, it’s not like that at all.

POET

Just thought you’d play the grubby little voyeur?

ARTHUR

I am no grubby little voyeur.

POET

Just thought you’d come along and desecrate the names of the master poets Verlaine and Rimbaud?

ARTHUR

No…

POET

Piss on their good memory?

ARTHUR

I did not come to…

POET

Piss on their good memory like some rabid unwashed dog from the dirty foreboding back lanes of wretched unlearnedness and cheap titillation.

ARTHUR

You have me all wrong. I am no unwashed dog.

POET

I’d say you were comparable to the scabbiest of any canine monstrosity unleashing its vile stench on the finest statue in the grandest boulevard of any great city you care to mention.

ARTHUR

Your comparison does not stand. I am no unlearned dog!

POET

What are you if not a grubby little voyeur, here to mock our precarious existence?

PAUL

Sir, he’s a poet too.

POET

A poet, this scabbed mongrel…?

The London Poet walks up to Arthur, sniffs him, tears at his tufts of hair, steps on his toes, Paul shrugs.

PAUL

A touch primitive, granted.

POET

Can you vouch for him?

PAUL

He can vouch for himself.

POET

Well then, let us hear what you have written.

Paul takes Arthur to one side.

PAUL

Arthur, these are London’s finest poets …far more reserved, insular and ultimately withering than even our own Parisian poets. And they’re demanding you read your work, now. 

ARTHUR

I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

PAUL

You finally get the chance to really prove yourself.

ARTHUR

I’ve got nothing ready to show right now.

PAUL

Oh, whatever scribblings you’ve made in that notebook of yours will do.

ARTHUR

The scribblings in my notebook are unfinished.

PAUL

Improvise…go with the flow…these guys want to see you die for every thought, of every word, for every line that you’ve ever committed to paper, and surely you can show them a glimpse of all that lies behind, mind, one shallow noun or misplaced view and they will slaughter you. Your…

ARTHUR

…Career… 

PAUL

…Will be ruined if they think for one moment you’ve disrespected them.

ARTHUR

Fuck…

PAUL

Of course I’m expecting you to fully vindicate my taste and judgement so it won’t just be these chaps you’re letting down…

Arthur backs up to the house, and pulls out the notebook he has been scribbling in, pulls on the fluoro vest, faces everyone.

POET

So what have you got young man?

ARTHUR

This is…ahem… what I’ve been writing the past few days.

POET

In that notebook?

The poet looks at Arthur’s notebook in disdain.

ARTHUR

Yes, in this notebook.

POET

Care to give us some foreground?

ARTHUR

Paul…?

Arthur looks beseechingly at Paul, but Paul has turned away and is inspecting the house.

It’s… my, ermm, impression of where we’ve been and where…ahem…

POET

Get on with it.

ARTHUR

Yes, well, where I fear we are going… 

POET

Has the work a title?

ARTHUR

A Season in, ermm, Hell’

POET

So far, so utterly predictable!

ARTHUR

Here goes…

Once if I remember well

My life was a feast

Where all hearts opened and all wine’s flowed

One evening I seated beauty on my knees

And I found her bitter

And I cursed her

I armed myself against justice

Arthur begins to grind out a slow handclap. The poets join in and this aids Arthur who starts building his poem in intensity.

I fled o witches. O misery, O hate, to you has my treasure been entrusted.

I contrived to purge my mind of all human hope

On all joy, to strangle it, I pounced with the stealth of a wild beast.

I called on the executioners that I might gnaw their rifle butts while dying.

I called to the plagues to smother me in blood, in sand, misfortune was my God… 

I laid myself down in the mud. I dried myself in the air of the crime. I played sly tricks on madness and spring brought me the idiot’s frightful laughter.

Now, only recently, being on the point of giving my last squawk, I thought of looking for the key to the ancient feast where I might find my appetite again.

Charity is that key – this inspiration proves that I have dreamed!

Just when he is hitting his stride a car roars past and insults are hurled from a window, Arthur’s turns up the intensity of his reading.

ARTHUR

You will always be a hyena.

POET

Haw, haw…

ARTHUR

You will always so protest’s the devil who crowned me with such pleasant poppies.

Attain death with all your appetites, your selfishness and all the capital sins!

Ah I’m fed up – 

But, dear Satan, a less fiery eye, I beg you! And while waiting a few small infamies in arrears, you who love the absence of the instructive or descriptive faculty in a writer, for you let me

Arthur begins to tear out the pages of the notebook and smears them against the wall of the property… screams out the following words.

Tear

Out

These

Few

Hideous

Pages

From

My 

Notebook

Of

One

Of

The

Damned!

There is silence, a really uncomfortable silence.  All of a sudden THE LONDON POET’S head bursts into flames, then his fellow poets too spontaneously combust. Arthur looks at Paul who looks back at Arthur and shrugs. They pick up their bags and head for the pub.

BLACKOUT

SCENE FIVE – FEAR IN THE LAGER 

Arthur and Paul are sat in a pub nursing pints of lager. Arthur scribbles furiously whilst Paul studies the play of light liquid gold upon his golden glass in the warmth and the glow of a liquid afternoon. Eventually they converse.

PAUL

That poem you just read…

ARTHUR

Yes?

PAUL

Quite good!

ARTHUR

Quite good?

PAUL

Bit naïve of course, but showed promise.

ARTHUR

Other poets didn’t seem to get it.

PAUL

Other poets never do.

ARTHUR

Other poets all seem to hate each other!

PAUL

Thank God you have me.

ARTHUR

Where would I be without your special brand of sensitive discourse?

PAUL

Oh what I wouldn’t give for some especially branded sensitive discourse right now.

ARTHUR

I’m sure there’s plenty round here could accommodate you.

PAUL

I was thinking more specifically with you, Arthur.

ARTHUR

And I’m specifically thinking about poetry, Paul.

PAUL

What are you writing, anyway?

ARTHUR

Don’t know, got some weird shit in my head, need to get it out.

PAUL

Post performance paranoia; wouldn’t worry about it.

ARTHUR

This place gives me the creeps.

PAUL

Serve a fantastic lager though.

ARTHUR

Where are we precisely?

PAUL

Golden Lion Royal College Street.

ARTHUR

I’m definitely suffering some kind of déjà vu.

PAUL

Oh totally, the recurring pint of Stella Artois!

Paul raises his pint glass to the ceiling; it glows in the light like the holiest of chalices.

ARTHUR

Why didn’t you read something?

PAUL

Why on earth should I have read something?

ARTHUR

That’s what we came here to do.

PAUL

It wasn’t an appropriate moment.

ARTHUR

The London Poets expected you to.

PAUL

The London Poets! That gabby rabble of word-less head burners! I must concede though, it’s a noble and admirable cause; that they are at least going to fight to preserve the building from those philistine developers.

ARTHUR

Oh I don’t know, maybe it would be a nice investment?

PAUL

What… like a smart speculative move with an eye for a good profit?

ARTHUR

Sure, if you got the right architect in…

PAUL

Speaking from a somewhat materialistic cultural perspective of course…

ARTHUR

Speaking from someone who dislikes nostalgia, maybe…

PAUL

Maybe, maybe, maybe! I tell you this as a concrete concern. Number 8 Royal College Street should be turned into a museum or a library.

ARTHUR

And kill the space, deaden the room, nullify its very energy? 

GEN

Isn’t that the sole preserve of the property speculator?

ARTHUR

Who knows what future little God or Goddess may be born from the loins of some unwitting yuppie tenant?

PAUL

What on earth do you mean by that?

ARTHUR

Maybe the poets are fooling themselves, chasing lost causes, worrying about dead bricks and static mortar when they could be…

PAUL

Scribbling tat in scrappy notebooks?

ARTHUR

Or sat slumped in a gloomy pub as a dim testament to failure, wrote a book once, and never managed another word again, just head full of educated conceit and the landfill of bitter unspent words, oh what kind of man could live with himself in that way?  

PAUL

You’re so fucking spiteful, shallow.

ARTHUR

Seen a side of me you don’t like?

PAUL

You harbour some petty little demons

ARTHUR

At least my demons are up front

PAUL

What are you trying to tell me now?

ARTHUR

I’m trying to tell you once more that my demons are up front, they don’t hide behind drink, they don’t lash out at the people I profess to love most and you know, exactly, what I’m trying to say here.

PAUL

Verbal garbage, what experience have you had of real life?

ARTHUR

Is this not real?

PAUL

My friends happen to find you insufferably arrogant.

ARTHUR

That’s their opinion they don’t know who I am.

PAUL

They think you’re making a fool out of me.

ARTHUR

I’d say that up to now, it’s you who has made all the running.

PAUL

I stand to lose my family and everything you could at least show some commitment.

ARTHUR

And you could at least go to the bar and replenish these glasses.

PAUL

Can’t… money’s running low, in fact that was our last pint.

ART

Well let’s lay waste to the absinthe you’ve bought then.

PAU

The absinthe proved to be a bit too expensive, so I didn’t buy it in the end.

ART

Never mind, I guess we can always dip into the Ketamine.

PAU

Ketamine?

ART

The ketamine your London Scene connections were going to provide.

PAU

Ah, my connections have let me down I’m afraid.

ARTHUR

Listen Paul, no offence, but I don’t feel right here I think I’ll split.

Arthur stands up and puts his notebook and pen into his inside pocket. He has a satchel, he puts that over his shoulder and prepares to depart.

PAUL

What?

ARTHUR

This is just not the vision you sold me, and now to find we have no funds, listen I think it’s better if we just strike out alone.

Dear me… the panic on Paul’s face.

PAUL

How will you survive without me?

ARTHUR

Oh I’ll be fine.

PAUL

Alone…?In London?

ARTHUR

I’ve been bumming it since I was fourteen.

PAUL

Anything could happen to you.

ARTHUR

Chance would be a fine thing. 

PAUL

They’re chopping up bodies and putting them in bin bags and leaving them on doorsteps out there.

ARTHUR

Sounds like my kind of town.

PAUL

Fifteen murders this month?

ARTHUR

Definitely my kind of town!

PAUL

You’re bound to get in trouble.

ARTHUR

Just can’t help myself.

PAUL

Do you think for one moment that I want to deal with the responsibility of bailing you out?

ARTHUR

It’s your own self you should be dealing with don’t worry about me!

Arthur takes a further step towards leaving.

PAUL

OK, OK, OK!

ARTHUR

What?

PAUL

I got a plan.

ARTHUR

Have you now!

PAUL

Let’s get back on the Eurostar and head for Brussels.

ARTHUR

Brussels?

PAUL

The wife is conducting a shopping expedition in a few days. 

ARTHUR

Brussels! 

PAUL

We can hole up in the best hotel in town until she comes, put it on her account.

ARTHUR

So?

PAUL

She’ll have untold money.

ARTHUR

So what!

PAUL

I love you.

ARTHUR

Who needs a fucked up love like yours?

PAUL

You know I’ll probably kill myself.

ARTHUR

Go ahead.

PAUL

Do you really want to live with my death?

ARTHUR

Kill your wife.

PAUL

Say that again

ARTHUR

Kill your wife.

PAUL

Kill my wife?

ARTHUR

We draw her money out and vanish.

PAUL

Just like that?

ARTHUR

The other side of the world, someplace obscure and transient.

PAUL

To do what exactly?

ARTHUR

Write our poetry on the beach and never have to suffer again.

PAUL

That’s a terminally stupid idea!

ARTHUR

The most poetic usually are.

PAUL

What’s poetry got to do with it?

ARTHUR

I thought that’s what we were…poets? Kill your wife.

PAUL

No way!

ARTHUR

Why not?

PAUL

She’s my wife.

ARTHUR

Save the poor deluded woman the long torturous process of slowly being kicked to death by you every time you stagger home drunk to let your sordid repressions loose.

PAUL

I just couldn’t do such a thing.

ARTHUR

Back to that pussy word again!

PAUL

No…

ARTHUR

Guts, no passion!

PAUL

You…

ARTHUR

Don’t… 

PAUL

Love you…? 

ARTHUR

Well…?

PAUL

I’m besotted with you!

ARTHUR

Prove it…

PAUL

Again?

ARTHUR

Be true to yourself for once.

Arthur turns to go.

PAUL

I’ll do it!

ARTHUR

Good man!

Arthur sits back down again.

PAUL

Ah, but with what do we kill my wife?

ARTHUR

With this!

Arthur pulls one of the poets fishes out of his pocket, slaps it down on the bar.

PAUL

With that?

ARTHUR

No stupid, with this…

Arthur pulls a gun out of his jacket pocket, fishes about and then taking Paul’s hand he tenderly opens his fist and drops some bullets into his palm.

ARTHUR

And these!

PAUL

Where the hell did you acquire that thing?

Arthur simply laughs and presses his hands over Paul’s.

ARTHUR

To The Assassins!

PAUL

Tentatively

Yes, the Assassins!

They raise glasses, Paul’s face has gone as green as the liquor inside his Absinthe glass.

BLACKOUT

SCENE SIX – BAD ON THE EUROSTAR, 

Our two scum protagonists are once more sat on the Eurostar. Arthur is scribbling furiously in his notebook whilst Paul is taking surreptitious slurps from a pewter hip flask, looking quite suicidal. A priest…GENESIS B WILDE… joins their company. 

The priest opens up a book, suddenly the priest, quite unbidden, raises his hands and begins quoting.

GEN

‘A good-for-nothing man is digging up what is bad, and upon his lips there is a scorching fire. A man of intrigues keeps sending forth contention, and a slander is separating those familiar with one another’. 

Hmmm…I think what Solomon is trying to say here is that we should try to look for good in others and say things that could maybe build respect for them instead of spreading words can easily arouse groundless suspicions, separating friends and causing divisions within the congregation.

Paul and Arthur look on in astonishment at their new travelling companion, Paul goes to say something…

There is so much badness in the world that can be so easily avoided, please, don’t stop my flow…

‘A man of violence will seduce his fellow, and certainly causes him to go in a way that is not good. He is blinking with his eyes to scheme up intrigues. Pinching his lips together, he certainly brings mischief to completion’ now, may I ask to which destination you two gentlemen are bound?

ARTHUR

Brussels, we are going to kill Paul’s wife.

GEN

Aha, yes, the blink is there in the eye of your friend.

ARTHUR

Yet it was I who thought up the intrigue.

GEN

I don’t doubt it. 

ARTHUR

I’m trying to free Paul from a deadening situation.

The priest absorbs this information, frowns, thinks hard…

GEN

Maybe, sometimes we just have to move on?

The priest turns a page or two finds what he is looking for, begins to read again.

Aha, yes, there was a prince…

ARTHUR

Laughing

A prince?

GEN

A prince!

ARTHUR

Wicked!

GEN

A wicked prince and I say is he narked!

ARTHUR

Narked?

GEN

Narked!

ARTHUR

Why’s this then?

GEN

He was narked because…because…he was narked, because he’d always given himself over to nought but the perfection of commonplace munificence.

PAUL

What do you mean commonplace munificence?

GEN

What I mean is he’d grown weary of the mundane, despised the ordinary. He foresaw startling revolutions in love, and he suspected the women in his harem were capable of much better.

ARTHUR

Better than Paul’s poor wife can muster?

GEN

Much better than the obliging kindness they usually offered up, embellished as it was with all manner of heaven and lustrous extravagance.

ARTHUR

Why is that father?

GEN

Lustrous extravagance could never be enough because he wanted to see the truth; he needed the moment of essential desire and true satiation.

ARTHUR

Which is surely the major aberration of all things pious?

GEN

Now whether his wish was an aberration of piety or not I don’t rightly know… but that is what he wanted, and you know, at the very least, his power was considerable…

ARTHUR

So basically… the men and women who sniffed around his arse, sucked his dick and drank his drink just didn’t do it for him? 

GEN

The prince was bored with his situation.

ARTHUR

I think I know the feeling

GEN

Eventually he had no qualms in exercising all that human power he possessed

ARTHUR

How?

GEN

All the women he had known were slaughtered.

ARTHUR

Oh pillage of the garden of beauty!

GEN

Beneath the sabre itself they blessed him, they seemed to welcome his destruction and showered kisses on the very blade that cut them apart.

ARTHUR

You mean they still kept coming back for more.

GEN

Absolutely, he ordered no new ones, but then the women just reappeared. He can’t believe his eyes. 

ARTHUR

‘Get these fuckers out of here’… he shrieks. 

GEN

He slays all who follow him, after the hunt or after libations, he scythes them all down, still they follow on…

ARTHUR

I find that nothing beats utter boredom for inspiring extreme nihilism

GEN

That’s right, something has got to stroke the senses son. Something has got to stir the soul. Anyway, he diverts himself by butchering lustrously beautiful animals. He sets torches to the palaces. He rushes upon people and hacks them to pieces. To no avail; the mob, the roofs of gold, the beautiful animals are all still there.

ARTHUR

But can one be rapturous in destruction, you know like grow young through cruelty? 

GEN

Hush…the people didn’t say a thing, no one could be bothered with his conceits, no one would lend an ear to his opinions. No one had the guts or the conviction to challenge his slaughterous reign. No one could give him the love he so obviously needed, life, it has to be said, went on

ARTHUR

And on

GEN

And on, until one night, there he is, and woah, a genie appears

Both Arthur and the priest look above to a sky beyond the ceiling of the train.

And such a creature! Here we are talking ineffable, unmentionable, inexcusable beauty. A face and a bearing that gives promise of manifold and complex love, you know, everything that anyone ever wanted, anyone who ever craved unspeakable unbearable bliss!

The prince and the genie

ARTHUR

The genie and the prince

GEN

The prince and the genie vanished into nothingness

ARTHUR

And?

GEN

And so they died together.

ARTHUR

Absolutely!

GEN

But, woah, the prince died in his palace at a normal age

ARTHUR

The prince was the genie?

GEN

And the genie was the prince, and I tell you this, learned music is lacking in our desire.

PAUL

Learned music is lacking in our desire! Who would have the gall to rack out such a preposterous line?

GEN

Your man did here, the boy, of course I’ve appropriated it slightly. But diminished nothing in its beauty and complexity!

PAUL

You wrote this, this, this far-fetched fable?

ARTHUR

That’s right Paul I wrote it.

GEN

And I think the gist of what our young poet is saying here is that our dreams demand better. That what we think are our equals are sometimes lacking. In love we seek out both complexities and symmetries. We hope never to be bored.

ARTHUR

What’s with the clerical outfit?

GEN

Dress like the enemy son.

ARTHUR

Eh?

GEN

Dress like the enemy and people fall over them-selves to be nice; they open doors for me, they carry my bags. This is my passport, my licence to go anywhere I want. No one has a clue what’s fomenting in my head.

ARTHUR

Makes a kind of sense.

GEN

It works every time.

PAUL

So who, pray, is the enemy?

GEN

Who’s the enemy? Everyone’s the fucking enemy.

PAUL

You’re no priest!

GEN

How perceptive of you.

PAUL

Mr…? 

The priest flourishes a card.

GEN

Wilde! Genesis B Wilde! I am one of Europe’s most notorious sons. You may know me as the outcast wanderer in perpetual exile or even the scapegoat prophet to boot. I’ve heard it said that I take shit today for society’s future mistakes, but hey, I’m just trying to scrape by existence!  

PAUL

I’m tired of this. Excuse me both of you.

Paul gets up and heads for the toilet.

GEN

I take it you’re together?

ARTHUR

Yeah, but he won’t commit himself, and he won’t give up his family…

GEN

And don’t tell me he’s always drunk and he’s turning out to be a shit fuck.

ARTHUR

He wants to fuck, but I’m not so keen on the casual.

GEN

It’s got to be all or nothing.

ARTHUR

You’ve nailed it. I guess I’m going to ditch him when we get to Brussels.

GEN

Sounds like a sensible idea.

ARTHUR

I mean the thing about Paul is he just doesn’t understand.

GEN

Understanding is generally a pretty hard thing to attain, what’s bugging you anyway, anything I can help with?

ARTHUR

I just have this constant feeling that I have all this time running through me, the past is with me the whole time, and not just one past, many pasts, all this history, these stupid religions, these outgunned races, our propensity for nurturing all that is bad and useless our insistence on isolating and exiling everything that should be nourished, our blind love of lies and our disregard for the truth, our waste of words, our betrayal of beauty and I see the future, what it is and what it could be and it just blows me away, and I write it down, but it only makes sense to me and Paul doesn’t want to know, or can’t know and I’m feeling like, am I mad, am I the only person feels like this? Like…

GEN

Son, every person on this train is feeling the confusion right now, they just haven’t the means to articulate it, sometimes that’s a good thing sometimes it’s bad.

ARTHUR

Are you scared father?

GEN

Me, you kidding, I’m shitting myself son.

ARTHUR

I’m not scared.

GEN

No?

ARTHUR

The only thing that scares me is my lack of fear! 

GEN

You’re facing up to how you feel, and you’re getting it down on paper, that’s half the battle won, my advice is to feel the fear young man, work your way towards it. And I will tell you why! Fear keeps you on your toes, in fact I’d say fear keeps the soul young, and that does wonders for the complexion, a good complexion of course opens many doors, especially a good looking young man such as yourself, I say run with the scares, let them aid your thought and your vision, there’s a whole world for you to explore. Don’t let the bars of hesitation shut you down.

ARTHUR

Let me ask you something, what do you think makes us act the way we do?

GEN

The way we do?

ARTHUR

People like us?

GEN

Freedom!

ARTHUR

Yeah?

GEN

Yes, and it is the most valuable commodity in the world!

ARTHUR

I dream of nothing else…

GEN

You’ve got more than enough. 

ARTHUR

I’m just not sure about that.

GEN

I can see it in your eyes.

ARTHUR

Paul?

GEN

Maybe he’ll be back with his wife and kids before you get the chance to ditch him. 

ARTHUR

Pussy not poet?

GEN

You know him better than me.

ARTHUR

I just wish he’d write!

GEN

Maybe he’ll come clean one day!

ARTHUR

By then it will be too late.

GEN

Show him the lust of the fear.

ARTHUR

Do you reckon?

GEN

Sure, and fire him some love before you leave. 

ARTHUR

Do you fancy a twirl when we get to Brussels?

GEN 

Not stopping I’m afraid. The Ukraine is my destination! I’m off to buy a container full of radioactive ikons that have just turned up.

ARTHUR

Do they glow in the dark?

GEN

I fucking hope so son.

ARTHUR

Wouldn’t it be easier to create new ikons that glow in the dark?

GEN

Ah, but there you have it, I was an artist myself once.

ARTHUR

Really?

GEN

Sadly, yes. But the art world doesn’t do it for me anymore. Black money, illicit goods and a sense of danger do. I hope you enjoy your stay in Brussels.

ARTHUR

I’ll try my best father.

GEN

And as for Paul, it’s nice to be nice, give him what he wants, whether that’s for the first or last time, you understand?

ARTHUR

Yes, I think I do.

GEN

Ah look the sun is going down on Europe and what an exquisite sun it is too. Have you got anything on yourself that could help us toast the moment?

ARTHUR

Nah, Paul promised me a whole load of stimulants but he just didn’t follow through on his promises.

GEN

Sometimes, it just works out that way.

ARTH

All I have is this fish!

Arthur pulls out another fish slaps it on the table.

It’s all that Rimbaud mass had to offer I’m afraid.

GEN

No worries, we could always see what this fish has to offer.

ARTH

What could the fish possibly have to offer?

GEN

I don’t know, but let’s see…

Gen pulls out a knife and slit’s the fish along its belly. He pulls out a bottle of Absinthe and a bag of powder, opens the bag dabs his finger, snorts it, licks it, smiles…

Ah, Ketamine, I do believe, and Absinthe, obviously…

Gen sticks his finger in the bag again and directs his finger towards Arthur’s nose, Arthur snorts then licks, and smiles immensely. Gen pours some absinthe into a clear plastic container passes it to Arthur, then pours one for himself, Arthur raises his cup to Genesis, Gen carries on speaking.

Now

Gen rises to meet the moment

What is the difference between a glass of Absinthe and a sunset?

ARTHUR

What indeed?

GEN

What other spirit could command such adoration what other narcotic compares.

ARTHUR

Tell me, tell me…

GEN

The seasoned absinthe drinker sneers at the poor heroin addict, holds in contempt the foolish cocaine user with his shifty neuroses and all his sad delusions of grandeur, hashish, maybe, maybe not. What purpose does skunk serve but to nullify the jangling senses and what is ecstasy today but chemically impaired fools gold. Only Ketamine comes close with all its attendant liberating properties and its unnerving instinct in seeking out the animal in our soul. 

The priest pours a mound of the white powder on to the fish which lies on the table in front of them.

Absinthe and Ketamine, now there’s a cocktail to inflame the senses to set fire to the passions that would rage in our hearts.

ARTHUR

To swallow up the night?

GEN

To burn down the night, yea, yea, yea…the purple tin may hold enthralled the dossers in the park, champagne may fuel the party uptown and old men may swear by Viagra… sad young girls by prozac but nothing and I say nothing compares to this.

Gen holds up the bottle as the sun flashes a last gasp of illuminating ray through the train window. It lights up the liquid inside.

The connoisseurs of green bohemia all know of the beauty confined and the adoration it holds.

To you young Arthur

ARTHUR

To the liberation of all senses

GEN

To complicity

ARTHUR

To sublime and sensual worship

GEN

To scum protagonists everywhere

ARTHUR

To the true assassins

GEN

To Absinthe

ARTHUR

And Ketamine

GEN

To Absinthe and Ketamine

ARTHUR

So put your faith in the poison, be ready to live your whole lives each and every day, for now is the time of the assassins

GEN

And in the presence of death may we never feel so alive.

ARTHUR

Absolutely!

The train pulls into Brussels centraal.

GEN

Aha, so this is where we terminate. 

ARTHUR

Until the next time?

GEN

Until the next time!

Gen hands the bottle and the bag with its remaining powder inside to Arthur, who shoves it in his satchel.

GEN

There you go my son, may that see you through your stay in Brussels

ARTHUR

Bless you father

GEN

Anytime!

ARTHUR

See ya around.

GEN

Sure thing kid, see ya around. And remember…DRESS LIKE THE ENEMY…It’ll serve you well. 

And with that the enigmatic villain and fraudster disappears into the night, leaving a marked impression on our young protagonist.

BLACKOUT

SCENE SEVEN – FEAST IN THE HOTEL   

Hotel room in Brussels, Rimbaud scribbling furiously, a bored irritated and indolent Verlaine interrupts him.

PAUL

All that travelling has made me hungry I’m going to order something on room service.

ARTHUR

Enjoy.

PAUL

You want some?

ARTHUR

No thanks.

PAUL

Come on

ARTHUR

Not hungry

PAUL

You’ve got to eat.

ARTHUR

Just had supper with the devil.

PAUL

That insufferable bore?

ARTHUR

Sure!

PAUL

A creep!

ARTHUR

A laugh!

PAUL

A fraud!

ARTHUR

I’d say he was a fraudster but he was no fraud.

PAUL

You’re such a pathetic fantasist!

ARTHUR

Well fuck this shit. I’m gonna dip into Gen’s bag of Ketamine.

PAUL

Ketamine?

ARTHUR

It’s fabulous with Absinthe.

PAUL

Really!

ARTHUR

Want some?

PAUL

It’s most likely pure strychnine.

ARTHUR

Suit yourself.   

Arthur really goes to it.

PAUL

What do you think you’re doing? 

ARTHUR

This stuff is lethal

PAUL

You’re drinking way too much.

ARTHUR

That’s rich coming from you.

PAUL

Yeah, well, you shouldn’t abuse that stuff.

ARTH

I’d like to abuse you.

PAUL

In my dreams, obviously!

ARTHUR

Here in the now, come on…let’s not waste the utter luxury of this hotel.

PAUL

What?

Arthur pulls out the last of the fish.

ARTH

I‘ve saved one fish.

PAUL

What on earth for?

ARTH

For some personal sensitive discourse!

PAUL

Personal sensitive discourse?

ARTH

We‘re going to renact Rimbaud Mass.

PAUL

Oh God!

Arthur takes control.

ART

Drop your trousers!

Paul drops his trousers

Bend forward!

Paul bends forward Arthur begins slapping his bare arse cheeks with the fish.

PAUL

Oh fuck!

Whilst pausing only to glug the absinthe and hoover the Ketamine up his nose.

ARTHUR

God this stuff really does speak to the animal in the soul.

PAUL

In my soul too!!!

ARTHUR

This feels rampant.

PAUL

This feels magnificent.

ARTHUR

What time does the wife arrive?

The fish ritual builds in intensity…

PAUL

Soon, soon!!!

ARTHUR

You’re going to shoot her?

PAUL

Yes… oh, yes, yes…

ARTHUR

Yes?

And keeps building…

PAUL

Oh I’ve never, ever, never…

ARTHUR

Never what?

PAUL

Never, you know…OH…

ARTHUR

Say it, say it loud.

PAUL

I’ve never!

ARTHUR

Never what?

PAUL

Never shot anyone before.

ARTHUR

It’s easy.

PAUL

Easy?

ARTHUR

People do it…

PAUL

Oh…

ARTHUR

All the time…

PAUL

OK. OK.

ARTHUR

What time does she… come?

PAUL

Oh, soon… 

ARTHUR

Soon!

PAUL

Soon, oh, oh, oh…

There is a look of true bliss on Paul’s face.

PAUL

This is…

ARTHUR

What you want?

PAUL

More than what I want… 

ARTHUR

So practice your aim.

PAUL

Aim?

ARTHUR

To shoot your wife!

PAUL

Yes, yes…

ARTHUR

I’m having more A & K

Arthur hoovers more stimulants. The joy on Paul’s face is palpable.

PAUL

This is it!

ARTHUR

A clean shot OK

PAUL

I feel so close.

ARTHUR

Straight through the head.

PAUL

Oh God, yes, straight through the head.

ARTHUR

Hush…

Arthur grinds and Paul slowly groans down to silence, a look of pure greedy bliss on his face. A mobile phone rings.

ARTHUR

What the hell?

PAUL

Mobile phone!

ARTHUR

Who is it? 

Arthur slows down on the grinding and despite himself Paul reaches over for the phone.

PAUL

Txt message!

ARTHUR

Who from?

PAUL

Her, it’s from the wife!

ARTHUR

What time does she come?

PAUL

Come?

ARTHUR

Where is she now?

PAUL

Paris! 

ARTHUR

Christ!

PAUL

She’s cancelled the trip!

ARTHUR

What a let down.

PAUL

Quite!

ARTHUR

What a fucking let down!

PAUL

Now?

ARTHUR

Now?

PAUL

Now?

ARTHUR

I’m going out.

PAUL

Out?

ARTHUR

Yeah, out.

PAUL

Out where?

ARTHUR

Dancing, I’m going out dancing.

PAUL

I’ll come.

ARTHUR

Don’t bother.

PAUL

I’ll love it.

ARTHUR

You’ll hate it.

PAUL

What makes you think that?

ARTHUR

The type of place I want to go to, well, you’re not really cut out for it, I mean take a reality check and look at yourself in the mirror Paul!

PAUL

And which dancehall is going to let you through its doors? You don’t know anyone you’re dressed like shit and you haven’t got a penny to your name.

ARTHUR

Paul, I’ve got one thing you’re never going to have.

PAUL

Have you now.

ARTHUR

Something that will get me anything I want in this world.

PAUL

And what may that be?

ARTHUR

Youth!

PAUL

Oh! 

It’s a sad moment of realisation for Paul, he hangs his head down as Arthur skips out of the room.

BLACKOUT

SCENE EIGHT – SHOT IN HOTEL

So, as Arthur ventures out into the Belgian night searching for some kind of action Paul stays on the bed where he burrows deep into his troubled psyche. He toys constantly with the gun, he pulls out a notebook and tries to write a few sentences but nothing comes. Things are getting desperate. Paul puts the barrel to his temple but just can’t pull the trigger, all he can do is glug more liquid hoover more powder and sob uncontrollably.

And so as Paul reaches the pits of sentimental self obsessed pit of despair Arthur returns to his hotel room. High as a kite having had the time of his life.

PAUL

See you’ve had a good time.

ARTHUR

What is your fucking problem?

PAUL

You care about my problems?

ARTHUR

Lighten up for God’s sake.

PAUL

You’re absolutely oblivious to all the turmoil I’m suffering aren’t you?

ARTHUR

Try me?

PAUL

You’re just not in the same boat as me…

ARTHUR

Though we’ve just happened to have shared the same bed!

PAUL

You haven’t got the responsibilities.

ARTHUR

Chill Paul!

PAUL

Don’t patronise me.

ARTHUR

Be positive… express it through your poetry.

PAUL

I’ve lost every friend in Paris I’ve got because of you.

ARTHUR

They’re all masturbators anyway.

PAUL

You’ve ruined my life.

It’s comical, almost, Paul standing there brandishing a bottle of Absinthe and the gun shaking hysterically.

ARTHUR

You’re pathetic you know that!

PAUL

All I wanted to do was teach you…

ARTHUR

You’re just a drunken old fool. 

PAUL

I’ve sacrificed everything to do so.

ARTHUR

I’m the best thing that ever happened to you and you fucked that up too.

PAUL

You owe me everything.

ARTHUR

Sad ain’t it. 

PAUL

Don’t you understand?

ARTHUR

I’m off now.

PAUL

You’re going nowhere.

ARTHUR

Just watch me.

PAUL

I’m going to kill you.

ARTHUR

Come on then…

PAUL

I’m going to kill myself.

ARTHUR

Do it!

PAUL

OK

Click, Paul pulls the trigger. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! There is a flash and Arthur screams clutching his wrist. BLACKOUT! 

PAUL

Shit!

BLACKOUT! 

SCENE NINE – LIGHT IN THE JAIL

Last scene, prison cell, it has the same gloomy reverential air as the bookstore.  Arthur has come to see Paul in Prison. Arthur has shorn his hair off. He is also wearing a suit, a very nondescript but fully functional suit. Paul has grown his hair somewhat and has covered his prison shirt in poetic graffiti. Arthur has a package, wrapped.

ART

How you doing Paul?

PAUL

Good, good…The prison has an exceptional library…I’m studying Shakespeare and reading Cervantes, Arthur you must read Don Quixote, a great novel about a hapless wanderer, I will give you the book as a gift the moment I am finished with it… the food on the other hand is abysmal, I really am starved of nourishment in that department, don‘t even talk about other pleasures. 

ARTHUR

I’ve brought you a gift.

PAUL

Could you open it for me?

ARTHUR

Sure…

Arthur opens the package, Paul twitches his nostrils.

PAUL

A fish…

ARTHUR

Perhaps the guards could cook it for you?

PAUL

The guards, don’t talk to me about the employee‘s of this place, you know yesterday I was examined by the prison physicians, they took rude glee in telling me that my anus could be dilated rather significantly by a moderate separation of the buttocks and that I bore on my person signs of active and passive pedestrian habits.

ART

I’m sure you went spare!

PAUL

I merely shrugged … ‘What did they expect?’ I asked them. ‘I had after all, until the very moment of my incarceration, been enjoying the immense company of my great friend Arthur, a magnificent young man.’

ARTHUR

Thanks for the compliment.

PAUL

Compliment accepted.

ART

Sorry if I have compromised you in anyway.

PAU

Better to have been compromised once, than never compromised at all.

ART

The doctors sound horrendous.

PAUL

Nothing to what the priest asked of me.

ARTHUR

Please don’t tell me you’re turning catholic?

PAUL

Dabbling a bit, I must admit I have turned my thoughts to the trinity. My enthusiasm not even dimmed when the surly priest asked of me, in the greatest confidence, of course, as I knelt in his box, whether I had ever been with animals

ARTHUR

And…

PAUL

And again, I confess, I confessed, I’m afraid I invoked your name.

ARTHUR

I’m honoured.

PAUL

So what’s with the straight garm’s my friend?

ARTHUR

Bend to avoid the toxic winds, don’t bite the bullets.

PAUL

Of course, ‘dress like the enemy!’

ARTHUR

Absolutely!

PAUL

Listen, Arthur, I’ve been thinking things over. Believe it or not my time spent in this incarceration has been incredibly liberating. My writers block has gone. Words are just flowing out of me and I realise now where my allegiances lie. God, yes, Fuck my stuck up friends. I don’t need their money I don’t need their morals neither. I know where the future lies. It lies with you, with you and the poetry. I realise now too, who we truly are and what we are here for. I know whose burning spirits possess our own souls, and demand that we carry their flame. We are the bearers of truth, and light and liberty. And the darkness too is ours to play with, and words forever will be our sword, and long may we be prey to loves complexities, and nature’s fallible whims. Long may we show no fear, long may we drink to the long nights of oblivion; this is the life we perceive, this is our life. 

We are the eternal poets!

ARTHUR

Paul, I’m sorry.

PAU

What could you possibly be sorry about?

ART

I’ve given up the poetry.

PAUL

Given up, but a talent like yours, how could you?

ARTHUR

I’ve said it all, that poem, ‘A Season in Hell’ I wrote it for you, and I’ve said it all.

PAUL

But your talent?

ARTHUR

Why repeat myself? Can you not perceive of anything more saddening?

Tears run down the cheeks of both Paul and Arthur

ARTHUR

I did love you, you know.

PAUL

And I, my child, will always love you.

ARTHUR

Touched!

PAUL

So what will you do?

ARTHUR

Oh there’s a whole world out there, I guess I’ll go find my fortune, I guess I’ll go become a man. It will be an adventure anyway.

PAUL

Maybe, see you one day Arthur, yeah?

ARTHUR

Yeah, maybe, you do know who we are, what we were, what we will be, don’t you?

PAUL

Of course…

ART

Tell me…

PAUL

Later’s Rimbaud!

ARTHUR

Later’s Verlaine!

And with that Arthur gets up and heads out into the big bad world. A true assassin at last!

BLACKOUT

SCENE TEN – POET IN THE BARS

Paul now steps forward, he has a book in his hand

PAUL

I am working up a new collection. I will call it ‘Romances Sans Paroles’

I will go on striving to write a great poem.  

I will strive to match all of the classics, the collection I had built up over the years. 

I understand now the idea that Arthur was trying to articulate on our trip to London, about time passing through us, that we were possessed by the flame of the immortals.  Arthur understood instinctively who we were. It was myself who was naïve.

I have always maintained that the function of poetry is to preserve moments of extreme sensation and unique impressions.

Recently I realised, that I, that we, Arthur and myself have almost gotten there. 

Listen…

Paul begins to read a poem he has recently written

I dreamed of it, and we forgive

Not our fault, it is love

But the absolute opinions

And that life has taken us for this tour

Simple as it was during the time of my court

In a gray coat and green

And that’s it

I dreamed of it and not me

It neither I nor shall we reign

Over suffer no later than this day

For a kiss well paid back

The beautiful project

And we were standing hand in hand 

With that piece of blood

It was a dream

Oh sadness and disgust

I dreamed of it and not me

And we followed your shiny flags

Silk and satin

Oh bonhuer 

Winner until death

As indeed we ones

I was going through the paths, troubador

Chanting, swinging without fear

She mentioned the expensive night of August

Where his confession

Slowed down and made me king

Myself I loved this m’absout return

I dreamed of it and not me

For me Arthur is an ever-living reality, a sun that burns inside… that does not want to be put out.

As long as I live, and from now until forever, I promise the flame will never be extinguished

Take good care, always.

BLACKOUT 

THE END

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