Poems - Rob A. Mackenzie
CUSTOMER SERVICES CALL CENTRE
Fleck avoids mixing daylight and alcohol,
guffaws at jokes hours late, buttonholes
friends to balance the twin securities of life
assurance and certain death.
His favourite phrase is, ‘Give me a break.’
He has never thought himself idle.
His right eye, when not blinking,
keep guard over the B-road to hell.
Every time an outstretched palm
rises from the monetary myth-pool,
the fingers are Fleck’s, replacing
a row of dodgy meat hooks.
Imagine his voice, reassuring subprime
mortgage holders, call after call,
necks swinging which have never
conceived of nooses their size.
Something is wrong: the wolves drag their spectral bodies
through spritely towns, which have never known the burial
of bones in back gardens. The sound of snapping plastic
echoes between fenceposts: the sound of anger, as today
money is anger, threat, demand, and lack of it also
anger. A man said to Fleck, passing him on Princes Street,
‘I live in a world where the flies have started dining out
on other flies,’ and when he shrank into the Disney store
the stuffed animals seemed to shrink too. Money is fear,
lack of it is also fear. The latest preoccupation is erotic
abstinence, once practiced only by the desperate
or deviant, now the bookshops can’t get enough of it:
Mind, Body and Spirit, such wholesomeness that floors
shudder beneath every lightweight addition. The wolves
rise early to stack shelves and something is wrong with
the chief banker’s intruder alarm, which wails around
the clock even after wolves attack it with a pick-axe.
When they hunch forward, raise ears and bare teeth,
it means they are afraid - in other words, they’re about
to eat you alive, business as usual at the Disney checkout.
The financiers are dining out on other financiers,
which at least gives the poor a break, although the sound
of snapping limbs wakes them up each morning.
Soon, Fleck thinks, this will all seem as natural as aerosol.
THE MORAL HOTEL
The way the light falls, he can only see the moral
in Balmoral, the great hotel’s glasspainted Bal
deflected by a blinding curve, a trick of sense,
into holy darkness. Fleck enters, contemplates
the infinitely priceless, seasonally rotated menu.
Roaches hiss from skirting-board cracks:
‘Keep your soft belly hidden. Avoid the dusting heel,
the raging stump,’ the dining room’s key icon
Elihjah counting profits in forkfuls of dollars.
Fleck, for the first time in decades, feels
the drag of certainty’s deadweight anchor,
until the light shifts seconds later and bellhops
eject him to Princes Street, where barging shoppers
mingle with Zen masters, serene, giddy, vacant
in non-attachment, though not so as you’d notice.
Easter has been cancelled,
now a bankers’ celebration.
No need to taunt the dead
Fleck has work in mind
but takes time out
from everyday collapse.
He forks corn from a can.
The mob’s rage, he believes
raised the crucified
three days later,
the resurrection required
a hammering fury.
The banks followed suit,
market exclusive threats
to likely customers,
who queue round the clock
for negative equity.
The banks’ hate mail
become a status symbol.
People offer their mouths
as personalised ATMs.
Fleck kicks a lamppost.
The mob has been cancelled.
His toe is broken.
Still, he must resist.
The charity shop owners in the shadow of street
illumination. Fleck crawls by, drunk,
drags a shopping bag he can’t remember
picking up; within it, his soul’s embers
engineer a slow release of smoke, burnt
offerings before the dull window display,
itself a foil for the vigil of neon alphabets
and candle stubs on restaurant tables.
Fleck incinerates the litter bins
and bus shelters, triggers a Mexican wave
of security alarms, by automatic doors
dumps the bag, a gift for his dream lover
who sleepwalks the supermarket aisles.
Their lengthening keeps his nightmares lit.
Fleck and the Bank by Rob A. Mackenzie is publishing by Salt Publishing (www.saltpublishing.com) at £6.50