The Brothel
I unearthed a little brothel in the spring of forty-three,
It was captained by a midwife who was ninety years of age
She produced a little bottle saying ghoulishly to me:
‘you must try this new elixir, it is all the fucking rage’.
I awoke a fortnight later at a clinic underground
Where the patients all were painters, and they’d each consumed a pin
And when one was called to surgery his friends would gather round
With their brushes at the ready, to paint ‘life beneath the skin’.
When the skinner-boys discovered I had swallowed no such pin
They concealed some in my dinners, and although I had no proof
I was forced to give up eating and I soon became so thin
That I fled the washy dungeon through a cat flap in the roof.
I emerged in a cathedral with a wedding in full swing,
And I sprinted down the middle (like a batsman up the crease)
And by chance I reached the altar (with the timeliness of spring)
At that moment when the vicar says ‘…forever hold his peace’.
I surveyed the gloomy couple with a piercing, hungry look;
It was clear he was a bastard and that she belonged with me,
So I clambered up the pulpit and I opened up the book
And declared the marriage ‘filthy’ using Jeremiah, 3.
All the bridal guests were cheering but the others were aghast
So I grabbed my new fiancée adding slickly ‘stick with me’,
And the armies of relations started fighting as we passed,
Clashing rashly into combat like the closing of a sea.
We were wedded in the crow’s-nest of a galleon in Goole
Which we sailed to Vladivostok through a melted Arctic sea.
In the prow there was theatre, in the stern there was a school
And in all the world was no one who was happier than me.
                                             * * *
– A silencing of silence, like a nunnery in mourning,
Is the sound of this adventure as its rigging turns to silk
And the linen of my vessel, in a festival of yawning,
Is dissolving in the liniment like peppermints in milk.
I am careful what I wish for, I was never very clever,
But they will not wait forever in my brothel on the land
And with sand inside my stomach I can row into the forties
Where with haughty little greetings they will shake me by the hand.
They will waive my lack of money and my ignorance of Arabic
And poetry will vanish when I moor between the caves.
And they will not make me nervous or deplete my sense of wonder;
Under muttered cups of Spanish and through stalks of oleander
I will go, and as I wander all the bats among the brickwork
And the snow beneath the trellis and the donkeys in the moonlight
And the spoons of candied ginger and the thunder and the monkeys
In the cedars and the roughness of the mattress in the night
Will be big enough to hide me from an ocean of repentance;
They will hide me from my sentence in my brothel on the hill
As I stride into my brothel they will play an old piano
(Will they have an old piano? I imagine that they will.)
They will hide me from the gallows as I paddle in the shallows
And the hollows of my spirit will be stuffed with salted cheese;
They will roast me – I will row there like a ghost upon the water
(I will need a box of matches if it’s dark upon the seas.)



is a poet, trumpeter and film critic. He lives in Paris, where he works as a freelance journalist.