Much like an island, things here were becalmed. In the upper atmosphere, things would alter and change, but down to ground level, it was always the same. Familiar drama, corrupting comforts like tributes given to pharaohs, their slaves entombed with them, to serve even after death.
Achievement was not much recognized, nor heralded. Perhaps talked about, yet not a subject matter to be discussed because it was so unfamiliar, so deliberately unknown. The turmoil of sweat and labor, the endless dramas designed to occupy time and provide the skeletal frame of a relationship when they were really the detritus of whatever might have once been recognized in a moment and then dismissed, being processed as a means of growth, became the monuments to those minor, even tiny revelations which provided the potential of an impetus that became in petty minds one more obstacle of temptation denied.
The stillness was almost ceremonial, the often noted calm before the storm funnel that rose up a little, then settled downwards.
At one particular time, he gave out his phone number, on the other side of a piece of paper ripped in from the last pages of a notebook. On the other side the lyrics, or beginning lines for a new poem, which could have been either song, or poem.
The recipient, Priest, having asked for it, accepted it.
He thought no problem, he’ll recall those two lines, they’re so unique. “this is a poem instead of a kiss/for those of you who think of this……”
A time before he’d been welcomed into a different company, central to the city in which they all resided more or less. After the Priest’s gossip, it was a matter of being ostracized by other fatuous non-personalities, like the guitar player who used elevator boots to reach up to touch his own knees.
For the Priest, it was the fact that He was friends with the famous Poet. The Priest was a type of grocery clerk, ignorant of many styles of work in which he prided himself, had to ask what was a prose poem years before he would claim to have written any, in the midst of ingratiating himself to any and all who might bestow a favor.
The clerical collar was a noose, a stranglehold by which he would ordain his own halo, while establishing the means of his execution.
Not that he was actually a priest, just merely another name who enjoyed witnessing the intimacies by which he could climb further in his own estimation of turning neutrality at best, and bad habits at worst, into the favors of approval by which he imitated reality.
I recall, as a dispassionate observer, how when one to whom he professed friendship, down on his luck, had to sell some of his most prized possessions, his books, the Priest mocked and ridiculed.
“I bought some of your books,” observed the Priest, with a mocking grin. “You idiot, why did you sell them?”
The person to whom he was speaking took thought, and did not smash him into the sidewalk, though the Priest would never know this.
His reply, calmly, was “I had to eat.” To which the Priest never enquired what were the circumstances, nor did it ever cross his peanut shaped mind to apologize for his insensitive nature, and cruel delight.
I was there as well when the Poet said to him, let’s get some coffee in here, to which the Priest assented, and then proceeded to establish another point of ridicule due to the fact that the innocent Poet, wearing dark glasses, stated that he was plagued by migraines and contrary to rumor used coffee to chase them away, and determined to maintain momentum, would endure and keep going, using the darkness of the glasses to provide a measure of relief.
It was not at all his fault to maintain his identity as other than who he was, even if others mistook him for somebody famous. If asked, he would state, “I never think of myself as Him, all I have to do is look at my non-existent bank account and I know, if I were ever in doubt.”
Jealousy and hatred were the gathering storm’s elements, used by the Priest. That lonely Sunday afternoon after the note was passed between them containing the lyrics, the Poet had unknowingly dropped a pill he carried for migraines. When the woman harpie demanded of her sycophants who might have had this, and been so careless, the Priest was there to volunteer that he knew the Poet would never do such a thing, but he had confided his agony of migraines, so….
From there on the Priest also developed the lyric into a song with a woman. When this became a hit for her, he had likely even counseled himself that he had initiated the song. In fact, had to continue to tell himself that he had, while keeping in mind the mockery of the Poet to whom he professed friendship, while undermining him wherever he went. The Priest did not want to be seen for a moment as the Pretender he actually was, but surrounded by idiots and fools whom he had cultivated there was no danger.
One final thing was the Poet’s always forgiving nature again took him by surprise when he poked his head in the door of a tavern late one night and thought he’d see the scumbag who was supposedly performing.
As he opened the door, the Priest, fearful as always though he termed it superiority to himself, loudly mocked the Poet. “He thinks he’s so-and-so.”
The Poet, to himself, replied, “I’d rather think I was so-and-so, than dye my hair, have it arranged and conditioned, and believe myself Robert Plant. A great singer whom the girl with whom the Priest had happened to contrive a lyric was then going out with.
Last witnessed at a ceremony to remember a famous woman poet and playwright, the Priest smugly smiled and the Worm who had lied to the Poet simply stared, having misled him, and then ran from sight, refusing to even acknowledge his presence, due to the fact that the Poet saw the Worm had lied about credit for a book, been told that the Worm had tried to fuck his girlfriend, and then he had remonstrated with him by letter in whose reply none of what the Worm had done was denied nor acknowledged, just the statement that if it would make him a better Poet, go ahead and punch in the Worm’s loaf, remonstrating with the Poet that he had bought him dinners, and coffees all the time.
But then the Poet was great company. He even proclaimed a fine book title for his first book, The Poetry Hotel, he said. The Worm said if the Poet did not use it soon, he was going to steal it. And he did, several years later, not informing the Poet of course.
The Poet, thought, when looking at those words, so you believe or have to tell yourself I am as low as you, that you think, have to think, I sold myself, as you have.
It seemed very real that these two backstabbing liars became friends.
The Worm was not as stupid as the Priest, even the Worm had a viable talent and awareness. The Priest was a vacuum, a virtual non-entity whose malice was masked by the grocery clerk he would always be.
A self-burrowing, betraying rot perversely turned in on itself in a masquerade of deceit and denial.
© Dean J. Baker
– excerpt from my forthcoming book….
http://www.amazon.com/Dean-J.-Baker/e/B00IC6PGQM/ – buy a book!