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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Featuring Rus Khomutoff

Prisoner of infinity
To Felino A. Soriano

Oh Prisoner of infinity
countercurrent between transgression and transaction
insinuation of eternity’s unrepeatable coalescence
poise deposited in an effervescent aye
on this iron chain of birth and annihilation
you espouse your catastrophe of charm
surefire voices that furnish the kiss of death
an unwearying impulse
to decrypt and decipher longing
like an idea infested with platitudes
realm navigator on the edge of consciousness

Sonic threshold of the sacred
To William Carlos Williams

What waxes wanes
the enforced reincarnation hour
and green quartz veins
over the mind of pride
Nowhere you!
Everywhere the electric!
the golden one
living in a poetic world, devouring words
these are the thoughts that run rampant
love paves the way to our existence

Paradise & Method
To Lovebug Starski

An exasperated sigh of grammar and spice
rendered in haphazard lew
vintage wise vanity
lactose intolerant daunt
a dilatation of the dead body of reality
where spirit is no longer 
anything but adventitious memory
spellbound speculations
phraseology in completeness
beyond our understanding
the finiteness of type

A collaboration between Rus Khomutoff and Felino A. Soriano

I swallow the ghost of your whispers
the vast unceasing universe was already
the aesthetic event
ideographs and fairytales
stirring nuance with stark truth
an invitation to deep stillness and perpetual pause
ciphers and tropes
will I someday know the ceaseless flux?

Question of movement, diligence
the voice captures wind, captures silence
amid the blue of day’s ornamental music
truth in solace, in what guides then watches our steps
Hope in nuance, though the gradation hides within
the gray of the moment’s compromised devotion

Nemesis sky

A secret transmission
a noncoincidence found in
infinitization of otherness
the flame under the rubble
traversed unceasingly by the horizon
interdependence of a cosmic trigger
blossom quick synastry
sweet bitter officialdom
of the nemesis sky


Underneath the arches of these generalities
the past, present and future
of the eternal menagerie
like a bouquet of fire through the lyric
guilty pleasures that enter while you exit
cyan deserve claim
bestow kiss merge rot
speculate dragonfly
linked deletions and much more

Love parasite

The explicit nevermind
a burgeoning finality
lullabies and laments in zeroland quiver
behind the beautiful forevers
iconic dodges of the midnight salvage
chronic meanings outbraving time
Cheetah Chrome
much madness in divinest sense

Rus Khomutoff is an experimental neo surrealist language poet in Brooklyn,NY.
His poetry has appeared in Poethead,Rasputin, Occulum, Egophobia and HypnopompHe has just published his first book called Immaculate Days (Alien Buddha Press).

Book Re:release: Catfish McDaris Prying Refried. Ppigpenn Press, 2018 (32 pages)

This chapbook anthology was originally published in Prying Magazine by FOUR-SEP PUBLICATIONS in 1997 and features the poetry of Charles Bukowski, Jack Micheline and Catfish McDaris.

The book’s colophon carefully explains, “Works by Jack Micheline have appeared previously in various form and are published with his explicit permission. Charles Bukowski gave these four poems to Micheline in 1974. They were friends. Bukowski was living at 5437 2/5 Carlton Way, Los Angeles Ca 90027 when these were written. They are used with all-three owner’s permission. Catfish McDaris’ original works appear with his explicit permission. At the time this special edition was published, Catfish helped Jack financially and they were friends until Jack’s death.”

Charles Bukowski’s poems include “Help Wanted”, “d.n.f.” , “Extant” and “to weep in her ear”.

“Extant” is clearly the best of Bukowski’s in the collection and shows off his anaphoric, incantatory style. Interestingly, the last page of the three page poem first appeared as “blue moon, oh bleweewwmoooon how I adore you!” in Sparrow Magzine (1975) and later in book form in Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit (1979).

Jack Micheline’s brief bio includes a blurb by Bukowski, “Micheline is a flowing, jostling master. A jew drunk singer, very fine. He knows best the betrayals, the pavements, the whores with lemon rinds up their bungs, and the lice in the spotlights.”

The chap includes the street-wise relevatory classics “The Song of Kid Willie”, “My Philosophy”, “Walking in Kerouac’s Shadow”, “Tonight I Push My Wagon Into the Night Sky” and “The City”.

The third contributor, Catfish McDaris lives in Wisconsin and has organised the republishing of this book. His poems are smart-assed and in your face and include “The Ass That Wouldn’t Quit”, “If the Moon Had a Pussy I’d Fuck It Doggie Style”, “Cape Valentine”, “She Loved Me Because Of Poetry” and “Antelope Dream”.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Release: Wayne F. Burke IN DREAMS WE CHASE THE LION. Alien Buddha Press, 2018 (92 pages).

In Dreams We Chase the Lion is Vermont writer Wayne F. Burke’s latest book of poetry. It includes sixty free verse poems written from a variety of voices and styles. The book is divided into ten parts. The early sections adopt different voices or thematic concerns, whereas the latter sections revert back, for the most part, to what Burke is best known for- his first person, anecdotal narrative poems. 

In a conversation I had today with Burke while he was working with his aged care clients, he briefly explained what he was attempting to do:

The book is a kind of experiment in different voices, at least in the first 3 sections. The "I" not "I"--not wholly anyway--yea I did write it but as imaginative leap into guise of a narrative-other, the hard cartoonish guy (Ramrod), a soldier (Vietnam), a kind of American everyman... Correlates to writing fiction but using poetic form, lines and rhythm.  Sections 4-10 revert back to a voice closer to a narrative "I" identifiable as me (whomever that may be), particularly in late poems of autobiographical nature. 

I agree that the middle sections are a hodgepodge of poems, although there is a connecting theme to each section, theme or form or voice. Maybe not obvious, but I did group poems I thought fit or complimented each other. 

Part 2 is perhaps the best in the collection and includes five poems written from the point of view of American infantry grunts during the Vietnam War. Cola touches on the moral dilemma of killing civilians caught up in the ideology of war:


the kid had stick-arms and legs
and was always smiling;
he hung around asking for “co-cola”
and he ran errands for us
like bringing sticks of tea,
powerful shit,
and for what would be pennies
in the States;
we gave him C-rats
and a shirt that
Elmer printed COLA on
and then one day
while we were gearing-up
to go out on patrol
I see Cola coming down the road at a trot
and him holding one of those conical hats
in front of him
and I screamed “Dung lai!” (stop)
and he hesitated
kept coming
and I pulled my .45
and aimed
and I cursed the god who
put me into such a position
and cursed the war for the slaughter
that it was
and cursed my mother for
giving birth to me
and the kid’s mother for
birthing him
and I shot
and at the sound of the explosion
everyone hit the deck
as the shit flew
and when I looked up
no more kid
just a great big hole
in the earth.

The cover features a naked woman with clawed feet towering above two contented male lions. The art is by Ammi Romero and has a strong mystical feel to it favoured by the 2016 start-up Alien Buddha Press and go-to editor Red Focks.

The title In Dreams We Chase Lions is an odd one in the sense that it is difficult to  distil it from the collection. Burke says of the title, “The title is more or less tacked-on. I think it fits the other-worldliness of the collection. The dream-aura of certain pieces. I may be wrong here. I may be full of you know what. I often am.”

Here's another poem from the collection in which the poet narrates a simple but compelling working class tale:


went to work on a rig
in the patch
slapping steel
outside Wamsutter
the Red Desert of Wyoming
I was the “worm”
the new guy
I stood on a steel mesh floor
at the foot of the 100-foot high tower
and looked out at the snow and
and thought of the song “Home on the Range”
we sung in 3rdgrade
“wake up!” the operator shouted
and a 50-foot long pipe came at me
that I caught
in my gloved hands
and walked across the floor
and positioned the end of it
over the “hole’
where it was screwed into the
previous pipe placed
and sent down the shaft
it was not a job to daydream
while at
the steel did not give a shit
for flesh
a pipe came fluttering
like a knuckle ball
in the wind
I caught it in the crook of my arm
and the thing dragged me
across the floor
and clanged against the pipe stub
sticking out of the hole
my little finger in between
split open like a crushed grape
the boss of the rig, the “pusher”
looked at the finger
and threw the hand from him,
I got a ride back to town
to the doctor
who sewed me up
and I was glad
I still had
ten fingers.

(all poems posted with the permission of the author)

Buy the book here:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book Review: Rob Plath Swallowtude: the memoir of harry zontal (Epic Rites Press, 2017) 97 pages

Swallowtude is American writer Rob Plath’s first novel and its ugly birth has been a long and difficult one. Plath is best known for his dark confessional poetry in his Epic Rites Press collections A Bellyful of Anarchy (2009), There’s a Fist Dunked in Blood Beating in My Chest (2010) and Death is Dead (2012). Recently asked about the delay in Swallowtude’s publication, Plath explains, “it was written in 2010, i think, but wasn’t sure i was ready to put the madness out in the world at the time.” Let me tell you that Plath’s cautions are fully warranted as his child is a disfigured and fiendish one.

Swallowtude is told from the point of view of harry zontal, a recovering 30 year old drug and sex addict who recounts his “summer of madness, sickness and emptiness.” The language is raw and angry and conversational in style and increasingly directed explicitly at the reader. 

The memoir dramatically begins:

this is the story about how i saved my life. i’m not so sure why i wanted to save myself because i find living rather painful; but anyhow, this book is about salvation. it may also be considered a deferred murder spree, a delayed overdose, a shelved trip to the loony bin, a stay against cirrhosis, etc., but don’t think i’m overly concerned with living because i’m not…but things were getting out of hand.

At the beginning of the novel harry’s life is a hopeless mess.  He is a writer who lacks the “motivation to write.” He’s been on a three month bender and downs whatever he can “to fill a cavity”: vodka shots, opiate pills, hash, vicodin, wine, coke and muscle relaxers, to name a few. He likes to drink in the shower. He hardly sleeps. He covers his LA “hovel” with wool blankets to block out the sun. He feels isolated and realises that his hands are “rooted to nothing in this motherfucking world.” He has a tattoo on his arm “born to die” taken from Jack Kerouac’s novella Tristessa. He frequently has suicidal thoughts. In the opening pages he bluntly says, “i’m not sure why i just didn’t kill myself that summer. i thought about it every day, but had decided to do it slowly, knotting my own noose one fiber at a time.” One day he picks up a few bottles of wine and on the way home and he thinks about crashing his car into a flatbed truck to decapitate himself, or alternatively, driving off the road and “hitting the people on bicycles on the sidewalks.” Harry gives himself thirty days to live in which he will drink and fuck and be “swallowed” by his nihilistic desires.

The title of the book swallowtude is candidly explained as harry waits for the Russian stripper g. to arrive: 

getting swallowed is what we crave. whether it’s by a cum guzzling slut, a liter of vodka, an opiate, we want the very thing that the void threatens to do to us. sometimes we want layers of things consuming us, thumping fuck-music, jugs of wine, a butt-sex loving whore, a big fat tablet of vicodin, but our wish is to return from these bowels of forgetfulness, unlike the void which takes us once and for all.

In a recent email, Rob Plath’s explained to me the term swallowtude more succinctly: “it is the thirsty, hungry dark vacuum within.”

The first sixty pages or so of the novel are focussed on h’s desperate attempts to curb his suicidal thoughts by “murdering the void” through getting wasted and engaging in kinky sex. In his descriptions, be it snorting a line of coke, getting a blow job or shooting his load (which is often) Plath is explicit and phallocentric in his language and (ahem) holds nothing back. 

Structurally, the novel consists of 38 sections or vignettes of two or three pages in length on average. The writing is experimental in the sense that it abandons the conventional use of capital letters, paragraphing, and apart from his neighbour Bruno, character names are abbreviated and designated by a lower case letter: t., n., c., m., p., s. and g.

The cover illustration is by the artist Pablo Vision who designed many of the early brilliant Epic Rites Press covers, including most of Plath’s early books. If you look closely at the centre of the page you will see an anatomical drawing of two men lying on their backs head to head.  This dichotomy perhaps represents the internal struggle within harry- between his “rising wicked id” which he describes as a “crazed animal” similar to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr Hyde and the calmer, more rational and moral man who also exists within him. The cover also cryptically alludes to one of the central messages revealed in this short book and repeated 14 times on its last page, “stay horizontal my friends.” 

An interesting aspect of this novel is harry’s defiant and pissed off tone in which he directly addresses the reader. About halfway through his narrative as a modern day underground man, harry pauses briefly to give the reader an earful to reassert the authenticity of his story:

by the way, reader. yes, i’m slitting open the goddamn narrative and sticking my skull through and mouthing my opinions. if you don’t like it put the fucking book down or burn it or stick it up your dirty asshole. some might think this is all pornographic, whatever that means, and some might think this is criminal the way I write about drugs and drinking and lust for young girls’ asses. some might think this contains too much information, but this is my life, reader.

Shortly afterwards in the story the phone rings and it is g., the Russian stripper. A significant turning point in the novel ensues. 

Interestingly, at the back of the book there is a 13 page visual appendix of amazing artwork by Pablo Vision entitled coked-up king lears & vodka-drunk hamlets.  My personal favourites include The Creature Returnssisyphean circlesand fuck narrative.

Swallowtude is a relentlessly dark humourless existential rant condomed in a suicidal gloom. It is a harrowing cautionary tale of the need to rise above the mud. To flee from the body bag of our anxieties and depressions. Plath, like his narrator harry zontal & his hero Schopenhauer, drags his balls across every page in this book and gives us a glimpse of how even the most fucked up of lives can be slowly clawed back. 

Check out Rob Plath’s website here:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Featuring Joseph Ridgwell

The Mysterious Mad Axe Murderer of Kings Cross

The scene was jumpy. People were getting jumpy. A low-level hysteria had crept onto the streets and wouldn’t go away until the mystery was solved, the mystery of the Mad Axe Murderer of Kings Cross! Even I was a little freaked, although the thing that worried me was whether the axe murderer was mad, or just an axe murderer. The newspaper reports were what did it, screaming headlines, enough to send out a wave of panic signals all over town. Scare-mongering shit like this:

SYDNEY -- Police here were trying yesterday to track down a murderer terrorising the city's red light district after attacking three people with an axe -- and killing one. The most recent attack occurred on Saturday, when the killer approached his victim and struck up a conversation. Soon after, he produced a tomahawk and smashed his victim in the head. Detectives have issued a public warning not to travel alone in Kings Cross. 

Man, everyone was looking over their shoulders, especially women and especially late at night. All the streets hookers were freaked. Backpackers moved onto to new destinations. The bums drank more, junkies harassed their connections, and even the Bikie gangs went incognito. 
At the work canteen gossip focused on one topic and one topic only, The Mad Axe Murderer of Kings Cross.  A sense of the unknown had somehow brought people closer together, roused a long lost community spirit, and added a touch of humanity to the day to day living.
Nevertheless people were genuinely scared. Posters went up; the alleged killer depicted as a huge six-foot male with brutal features. Nurses refused to walk home alone, demanding paid taxi’s or bodyguards, and custom at the Cross bars, strip clubs and brothels dropped by over fifty percent. 
I was living with my fellow ex-pat Blondie, in a grotty little bedsit above a hock shop in the heart of the Cross. The flat was a veritable dump, but it had one redeeming feature. From the window you could observe the nocturnal activity of a group of street hookers. They were mostly trannies and junkies, but it was interesting in an anthropological way to see which type of men went with them, and believe me it was all types.
Despite the fact we were both working we never had any money and would often spend our evenings checking out the free entertainment. On the second week of the unsolved axe attacks me and Blondie were holed up in our crack den, beers in hand, keenly observing the after midnight brass activity. The girls worked in front of what was known locally as, The Wall.
‘Whaddya reckon geez, is he or aint’ he?’ I said, as a middle-aged Suit walked past, acting nervous.
Blondie raised his beer and took a long hit. ‘Na, he’s gone past the point?’
I knew what Blondie meant. It was the hesitant punters who usually lost their bottle, but earlier I’d seen Tanya flash her shaven pussy, and reckoned the sight of her labia would be enough to tip the Suit over the edge. I raised my beer.
‘Five dollars says he takes Tanya behind the Wall.’
‘Okay, you’re on.’
Once again the Suit hesitated. This prick really was in two minds. I imagined the thoughts running through his sozzled cranium. Miserable wife at home, horrible kids, twenty years of a thirty year mortgage left to pay, car loan, dead end job, a life of quiet desperation. And what if he caught a disease or the hooker robbed him? What if someone saw him in the act, a neighbour or work colleague? Life, as he knew it, would be over. 
Tanya flashed her bald pussy once more and exposed her right tit. Blondie sighed loudly.
‘Oh shit, look at him, slobbering at the mouth, the gimp!’
The second glimpse of pussy and flesh was too much and the Suit succumbed. We manoeuvred to the second window of the flat.
‘Hey, hey, five bucks coming my way, amigo.’
‘Bollocks,’ said Blondie.
Once the cash transaction had been conducted Tanya bent over and the Suit dropped his trousers and stuck it in. It went on for a while and I don’t know about Blondie, but I got hot. Once it was over we watched some more free shows, a blow job, a hand job, and one freak sucking and reaming one of the trannies.
By that time we had polished off a slab of Toohey’s and were good and boozy, and more than a little horny.
‘Let’s hit the bars,’ I said.
Blondie shot me a worried glance. ‘What about the Mad Axe Murderer?’
‘Are you a man or a mouse?’
‘When it comes to Mad Axe Murderers I’m in the rodent category.’
I held my arms akimbo and pontificated. ‘It’s all paper talk geez, media panic signals, so they can sell their tedious rags, and somehow justify their pointless lives.’
‘But a tomahawk to the nut is a particularly violent way to die, I think I’d rather be shot or stabbed.’
‘Okay hammerhead, let’s examine the facts. Admittedly one unfortunate fella gets laid down, but that could’ve been drug or gang related.’
‘But what about the other reports, I mean there’s a pattern here, a trend.’
‘Bullshit, reports were unsubstantiated, it’s just a newspaper story and a pretty shit one at that. Let’s go to O’Malley’s and see if we can pull a couple of Euro backpackers.’
Outside it was a typical hot Sydney night, but the vibes were decidedly odd, somewhat ominous. Media panic signals can do that to a fella. On the way into the Cross we passed the brasses working the Wall. Tanya was there and I couldn’t resist letting her know.
‘You earned your dollars on that last one girl!’
‘You two been perving again, a? Why don’t you touch as well as look?’
‘Whoa, easy Tanya, you know we’re broke.’
‘Broke? You always seem to have money for grog.’
‘Come on Tanya, grog is a necessity, and anyway why would two handsome chaps like us pay for sex when there’s plenty of top tottie willing to give it away for free?’ 
Tanya fired up a cigarette and blew a thick cloud of grey smoke into the balmy night. ‘Keep dreaming Poms.’
O’Malleys was rammed with an assortment of Euro backpackers. They were mostly British, but there was a few Scandinavian, French, Spanish, Dutch, and German’s inter-mingled, even the odd Kiwi. Blondie and I brought two jugs of VB for the price of one and plotted up at the far end of the bar, a vantage point from which we could oversee the entire pub. 
Eventually I spotted three unattached girls.
‘Bandits at two o’clock,’ I said.
Blondie zoned in. ‘English?’
‘Na, Irish, check out the accents.’
We shuffled a little closer and heard the soft lilting, almost melodic accent of the Southern Irish Lass. There was a blonde, a brunette, and a stunning red-head.
I winked at Blondie, ‘I’m going for the ginger one.’
‘What chat up line shall we use?’
‘Let’s go.’
After positioning ourselves next to the girls, we sent out a series of looks and glances. I’m not saying we were blatant, but it didn’t take long for the girls to notice. They began giggling. Next it was time for the ice breaker. 
I strolled over with my jug of VB and addressed the blonde girl.
‘Excuse me, but my friend would like to tell you something.’
‘I beg your pardon’
‘I mean, he thinks there’s something unique about you.’
The girl glanced to her friends and then back to me. ‘Really.’
It was then that Blondie moved in. ‘Did anyone ever tell you that your eyes are like spanners?’ 
‘My eyes are like what?’
‘Yeah, every time I look at them my nuts tighten.’
All three girls burst out laughing.
‘Oh my god, did ye hear what he just said, me eyes are like spanners?’
‘Is yer man taking the fecking piss?’
‘Anyone care for a drink?’ I offered.
‘Sure, why not,’ said the girls.
Once the ice was broken we went over the usual intro’s. The girls had just arrived in Sydney on the start of some vague world tour, and were in the mood to party. After a few more drinks we moved onto to a nightclub where we continued drinking, and then hit the dance floor.  
At some point I found myself in a darkened corner with the red-head. Her friends were chatting to a group of public-school English rugby types and Blondie had disappeared. 
I reckoned Veronica was giving me all the right signals and put into action the tried and tested Casanova maverick.
‘Would you like to come back to mine?’ I roared above the thumping techno.
Veronica flashed me a sexy smile and laughed sweetly. ‘I couldn’t do that, I mean I hardly know you.’
‘Just for a coffee.’
‘Get away with ya.’
‘Okay listen, I’ve had enough of it here, and if you promise to behave like the perfect gentlemen I’ll let you walk me home.’
Being drunk, I replied without thinking. ‘I’d love to.’
Once that was decided I did a frantic circuit of the club in search of Blondie, but he was on the missing list. When drunk he was notorious for disappearing without saying goodbye, thee old lightweight routine.
‘Right, where d’ya live?’ I asked Veronica as we left the club and stepped out into the night.
‘The Rocks.’
Mother, I thought. The Rocks were on the other side of town and what with a maniac on the loose? I weighed up the options and figured I’d have to take my chances.
On the long walk I kept sizing up Veronica out of the corner of my eye and reckoned it was two to one on I’d be getting my nuts in. Veronica was talking non-stop, mostly shit about future travel plans and exotic trips. I slipped effortlessly onto auto-pilot.
‘Sounds amazing. I’m really envious; you’ll have the time of your life.’ 
When we eventually stopped my hopes of a shag evaporated in an instant.
‘This is it.’ said Veronica.
It was a large Backpacker’s Hostel. Hostel dormitories equalled zero privacy. ‘Nice.’
‘Come on, give us a kiss then.’
We snogged for a good few minutes. Afterwards I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, as during the extended Frenchie the drools had accumulated.
‘Maybe see ya in O’Malley’s?’ I slurped.
‘Oh no, we’re off to Bryon Bay tomorrow.’
What a fucking time waster. ‘Okay, see ya then.’
‘Yes, goodbye Joseph, thanks for walking me home, and keep your eyes peeled for that old Axe Murderer fella!’
And with that it was just me, alone in the night, facing the long walk home in a city where possibly a Mad Axe Murderer or several were on the loose. And I hadn’t even got a shag. As I walked along with my eyes wide open I wondered if I was losing my touch.
Although it was late the streets were empty and eerie, giving me a feeling of uneasiness. I quickened my pace. Why did Veronica have to mention the Axe Murderer? At Woolloomooloo I took a short-cut through some back streets and was halfway up McElhone staircase when I saw him coming in the opposite direction. We were the only two people on the stone stairs. He was a big man, in fact he looked exactly like the photos that had been plastered all over the Cross. And he was holding something in his left hand. An axe! 
I felt the fear, a wave of sheer panic, but there was nothing I could do, I was paralysed. My legs trembled and my hands shook. As we passed each other I fell against the stone wall of the staircase and waited for the tomahawk to smash my head in, but the expected mortal blow never materialised. The man just walked on by.  
Afterwards I felt foolish, but frightened. I jumped the stairs two-by-two and sprinted into the Cross. By the time I got to the Wall I was sweating and breathing hard. I stopped to catch my breath when Blondie suddenly appeared.
‘What the fuck happened to you, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost?’
I was forced to think on my feet. ‘I just shagged that ginger Irish bird, and anyway where the fuck did you go?’
It was then that Tanya appeared, re-adjusting her underwear.
‘You come back for some as well Pom?’ 
Luckily I now was back in full control. ‘After he’s be in there, do me a favour?’

Some poems from Joseph Ridgwell's upcoming poetry collection Wolf Star:

The Star Gazer

Drunken midnight blue 
The stars, the stars
All around my eyes
The stars, the stars
Is anybody out there?

Ode to Rosaleen Norton

When I moved into Nori’s Old apartment
In Roslyn gardens
Amazingly the sign was still there
On the door of number 7
Faded and worn by the passage of time
I could just make out the inscription
‘Welcome to the home of ghosts, goblins, 
Werewolves, vampires, witches, wizards 
And poltergeists.’

The Sea

The sea is wild tonight
The waves, the waves, the waves
And creels rattle
And harbour shudders
And boat masts wail
In gloomy skeleton shadow
Of ruined castle.

The Jinx

After the eighth fuck Antoinette shot bolt upright in bed
‘Are you okay?’ I said.
‘Do you think you can die by fucking?’ 
I leaned over and pulled two cigarettes from a pack of Treasurer Aluminium Gold
I fired up both sticks and handed one to Antoinette.
I took a thoughtful drag.
’When I was in Thailand
There was this local prostitute, who went by the name of - The Jinx.’
Antionette took a puff from her cigarette
And they way she did it, was incredibly sexy
It was something to do with the juxtaposition
Of the smoke and her naked breasts.
I ruminated if a ninth fuck was possible
But number nine is my unlucky number
So I dismissed the idea
‘The Jinx?’ Said Antoinette.
‘Killed three punters in one week.’
‘What, murdered them?’
‘No, they died while on the job.’
‘You mean while they were fucking her?’
‘That’s exactly what I mean.’
‘That explains - The Jinx - moniker.’
‘Seeing off one was bad enough
But three in less than seven days was considered carelessness.’
‘Didn’t Oscar Wilde say something along the same lines?’
‘No, he said parsley is ghastly.’

Here are the opening two chapters to Joseph Ridgwell’s upcoming novel Civil Service for a limited time only:

This book is dedicated to all the millions of workers sitting in offices all over the world, staring into computer screens, and dreaming of freedom…

The Dungeon

The government building was architecturally bleak and formless, drab, a brown blob of nothing. I’d christened it, the Dungeon, and that’s exactly what it was. A prison. There were no locks, chains or walls barring people from escape, but somehow few did.   
            The level I worked on was a sprawling open-plan office, banks of desks stretching away as far as the eye could see, a sea of grey and beige machinery  without end. The workers, in full view of their controllers, rarely strayed from their desks, and the prevailing atmosphere was one of collective atrophy. A series of windows ranging both sides of the building provided a view of some other buildings, but none of the windows could be opened. They had all been hermetically sealed so if you wanted fresh air you had to actually leave the building. Re-cycled air was pumped through an ancient air-conditioning system directly into the lungs of the workers. No wonder everyone looked dead. The office was killing them.
            In front of me was a laminated piece of A4 paper.

The Service Code, first published in 1906, sets out the core Service values and the standards of behaviour expected of all civil servants in upholding these values.
Integrity – putting the obligations of public service above personal interests
Honesty – being truthful and open
Objectivity – basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence.
Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving governments of different political parties equally well.

            I read the shit several times until it felt like some unseen force was trying to brainwash me, a la, Jim Jones in the Guyanese Jungle style. Put the obligations of public service above personal interests, what sort of kinky fruit would embark upon that sort of lunacy? Life was short and wherever I was and whatever I was doing my personal interests always came FIRST. Anything else would be crazy ape shit, the sort of easily subjugated path that could only lead to mental illness or suicide. And serve governments of different political parties equally well? What if another Adolf, or Pol Pot or Idi Amin came on the scene? 
            I read the memorandum once again and felt a little sick. Then I walked over to a paper shredder, forced the plastic sheet into the slot, and hit the on button, whereupon the sensitive piece of office machinery went into volatile meltdown. Fuck, what a racket. I looked around nervously. Nobody appeared to have noticed. I yanked the crumpled mess from the shredder, thrust it into the nearest wastepaper basket, and slinked back to my desk. 
            For the first few weeks of Service I was left alone, and apart from hello and goodbye, my colleagues hardly acknowledged my existence. In those early days the idea of quitting constantly crossed my mind. Why not? It could be done, just walk out free as a bird, and find another job. Then I concentrated on the positives, a living wage, generous annual leave entitlement, flex time, non-contributory pension, and then on the alternatives, unemployment, no money, social exclusion. Already it felt like a trap.
            It didn’t take me long to see how it all worked. If you wanted to get ahead you had to invent work. And those who were the most effective and adept at inventing work would go the furthest. I recalled the advert that had lured me into this Kafkaesque environment. Climb the Ladder of Success. If I put my head down and started inventing work, in all likelihood I’d eventually get a promotion. Three grades above the grade I was in and you started to earn decent money. You’d never become a millionaire, but you’d be comfortable, wife and kids, nice house, holidays twice a year, every now and again a new car. Normality, but did I want normality? Turn up every day, do exactly what you were told and you’d also have security, but you could get security in prison. Four walls, bills paid, no pay as you earn, no child support, no speeding tickets, no council tax, even free dental care and satellite TV. I figured I’d do one maybe two years and then get the fuck out before I became institutionalised. For I’d observed some of the lifers, the thirty and forty year inmates and it scared the shit out of me. Walking cadavers, grey hair, grey eyes, grey clothes, grey, grey, grey, so very, very, grey. . .And nobody said anything and nobody cared, and everyday we were a little closer to death.

Mister Cinema & the French Connection

Brigitte was shacked up with an Italian girl in a flat in North-West London that was nothing more than a converted bedroom. The Euro girls even shared a bed. The first night we sat on the one settee and watched television together. The girls spoke in French. Like most Europeans they spoke several languages fluently. It was obvious they were talking about me. What was funny? I grew more paranoid than usual. Then I wondered if they were lesbians, not impossible seeing as they shared the same bed. If they were dykes I would’ve liked to have watched them in action. Then I wondered if they would be up for a threesome. The Italian wasn’t so pretty, she had this long nose. I kept looking at it out of the corner of my eye. She could easily fuck a girl with such a protuberance. Then I wondered if she ever had fucked a girl with her nose. 
Anyway, Miss Milan hung around all evening and all I got out of the night was a short tongue session in the hallway when I departed the scene. Like Otis Redding I just couldn’t get any satisfaction and the next time I saw Brigitte I decided to make things happen. At the time I had a friend who worked as a projectionist in one of the Soho art house cinemas. I think he even slept in the cinema to save on rent money. I cornered Mister Cinema one evening in The Coach, a Soho watering hole we favoured for our marathon drinking sessions.
‘Are you still sleeping in the Electric?’
Mister Cinema was a strange guy, Irish, pale-faced, like he seldom ventured out into daylight. A great reader of books and the possessor of an encyclopaedic knowledge of Art House cinema, what he didn’t know about Fellini, Herzog, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Marker, Waters wasn’t worth knowing. It was how he’d wangled the cinema gig. 
‘Ah, ya shitting me Chief. Have you seen the extortionate price of rental accommodation in this fine capital of yours?’
Mister Cinema always called me Chief, I’m not sure why, but when he did I automatically felt more important, sort of superior to my fellow fruit. Maybe that’s why he did it.
‘That’s why I lodge with my parents. The rent is dirt cheap and I get my underwear ironed.’
‘You get your underwear ironed?’
I smiled benignly and swigged from my pint of over-priced lager. ‘Envy is a trait you should try a little less hard to cultivate, now let me get to the point.’
‘Yes do, you big fat-arsed cuckoo.’
I shot a finger of warning in Mister Cinema’s direction. ‘Don’t test me, remember I’m connected to each of the five major crime families in London. One phone call is all it takes.’
‘Okay, Chief, and remember you’re welcome to visit Derry any time.’
‘Coming from Southern Irish rebel stock, NI doesn’t figure high on my places to visit list, but thanks for the offer. Now back to why I asked to see you tonight. I’ve got a little shag on the go, a prime piece of Parisian snatch, and have promised to take her to the pictures.’
‘And you want a fillem that will get her in the mood, whilst at the same time satisfying her intellectual needs?’
‘That’s right, one of those films that are basically porn dressed up as art.’
‘You’re in luck Chief.’
‘I am?’
‘You are. La Bete is showing at the Electric every weekend for the next fortnight.’
‘La Bete?’
‘Erotic classic featuring the relationship between a woman and a beast.’
‘We’re talking French art house cinema, premiered on 6th January 1975 at Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, running time 98 minutes, directed by Walerian Borowczyk, lauded by some for his unique surrealist vision and derided by others as a vacuous pornographer.’
‘Sounds like just my kind of guy, and of course the French are much more open-minded, nay enlightened than the English when it comes to sexuality.’
‘The English have always been a backward race.’
‘Remember I’m half English.’
‘I feel your pain, but back to the film. It’s jam-packed with sex scenes, deformity, lesbianism, the aforementioned bestiality, cripples, even horse copulation.’
‘Horse copulation?’
‘Plus a great ejaculation scene.’
‘Just the flick to get my little Champs-Élysées filly in the mood for a rough ride.’
‘La Bete is guaranteed to get anyone in the mood, even, a stripped to the waist Turk under the influence of LSD and Serge Gainsbourg.’
The following Saturday found me and Brigitte in the French House in Soho, sipping daintily from those dinky half-pint glasses the boozer insist on serving to its patrons. This quirky tradition was some hangover from the Second World War, when due to rationing the boozer ran out of pint glasses and was forced to serve beer in half pint glasses. Not that it affected me as I always made sure to order two halves with each trip to the bar.  
‘Today, my dear,’ I said, addressing Brigitte directly, who looked especially captivating with her long dark hair tied back with a series of utilitarian Kirby grips, ‘we shall be celebrating, in your honour, all things Gallic.’
‘And that is why we are in a pub called the French House?’
‘That’s right. This public house, originally called the York Minister, was known as the French pub after Charles De Gaulle re-located to London during WWII. It was here that De Gaulle, along with his Free French Forces, was to remain for the rest of the global conflict in a state of continual inebriation.’
‘Drunk as skunks.’
‘They were?’
‘Every night, even during the blitz, and what’s more De Gaulle’s famous rallying call to his countrymen, À tous les Français, was written in this very spot.’
‘It was? I think I remember this from school history.’
‘Lest we forget my dear. And along with the Free French, this pub has been the haunt of artists and boho’s for decades. In fact Brendan Behan wrote most of the, Quaire Fellow, whilst refuelling on the black stuff at the bar there. 
‘The Quaire follow?’
‘And, drunk as a skunk...’
‘Another skunk drunk?’
‘A pissed as a newt Welsh bard, Dylan Thomas, left the manuscript to Under Milk Wood under his chair.’
Brigitte sipped from her half pint. A faraway look appeared in her eyes. Clearly she knew nothing of the great writers I spoke off and despite her prettiness and sexy accent, even the Kirby grips, we had practically nothing in common. And yet this realisation did not overly bother me, for after the fourth or fifth fuck, I was prone to weary of my little shags anyway.
‘All these writers, but what about the film?’ said Brigitte.
‘It’s a French classic called La Bete.’
‘I have never heard of this film.’
‘Premiered in 1975 and caused a sensation.’
‘1975? Such a long time ago. Who stars?’
‘Gerald Depardieu,’ I lied.
‘Ooh, Depardieu, one of my favourite actors.’
‘Come on then, let’s finish these drinks and head off.’
Once inside the Electric, a grade two listed building, we made our way to the back row where a leather armchair, footstools and a small table to hold our drinks awaited us. 
‘This is so cool,’ said Brigitte, as we snuggled together.
I pulled a bottle of chilled white wine from an ice-cooler, which had been pre-ordered, and filled our glasses. 
‘This is what they call the complete cinematic experience, now sit back, relax and enjoy.’
A carriage appeared on screen, two women inside, their way blocked by a fallen tree. They located a back route and arrived at some stables. That’s when the horses appeared. We stared at the horses, Brigitte and I. Miss Paris grabbed my arm.
‘Oh my God!’ 
One of the horses was in a state of arousal. That dong was magnificent, it swayed wildly, huge great dollops of pre-cum gushing from its eye. Then the aroused one, the male, mounted the mare while the actresses looked on in excitement. 
I placed a hand on Brigitte’s thigh. ‘Prepare to be illuminated.’
Brigitte pushed my hand away. ‘It’s disgusting.’
I put my hand back. ‘Its nature my dear and if it disgusts you then you go against nature, and are you not a natural woman?’
Brigitte pushed my hand away again.
The film continued. For a while Brigitte said nothing, her attention focused solely on the moving picture. The beast appeared, nudity, graphic scenes a plenty, it was great. During a masturbation scene, Brigitte rubbed herself against me, her thigh on mine. I saluted Mister Cinema, for when it came to movies he was the man. Soon we were snogging, tongues entwined, me keeping one eye on La Bete, and wondering if I could fuck Brigitte right there in the theatre. It was dark, but there were people around and an usherette with a torch, a flashing beam guiding cinemagoers to their seats. When the beast ejaculated all over an actress, I undid Brigitte’s jeans and stuck a hand inside her knickers. The knickers were damp and she was wet, but something baffled me. There were no hairs, bald as a coot down there she was. It felt good, smooth, and I let my fingers mingle with her juices. Then I leaned over and stuck a tongue in her ear, the acidic taste of earwax coating my taste buds. 
‘What shall we do afterwards?’ I whispered.
‘You shall comeback to mine.’
We arrived at Brigitte’s shoebox-sized apartment in Kilburn in a state of high arousal. In the taxi from the Electric we had been all over each other like the measles and the driver nearly crashed the car when one of Brigitte’s boobs accidentally exposed itself as we passed the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. Subsequently I didn’t tip the mug as I figured he’d already been paid in kind. 
‘What about Teresa?’ I asked as we ascended the short flight of steps leading to Brigitte’s flat. I nearly said what about long nose, but checked myself just in time.
Brigitte’s arm was in mine and she snuggled up close. ‘Don’t worry, we have an arrangement.’
An arrangement, I thought, how civilised.
Once inside the apartment we found Long Nose lounging on the settee, watching television in her pyjamas, the epitome of somebody going absolutely nowhere. I sat down on the settee and so did Brigitte. The two girls exchange looks.
‘What?’ demanded Long Nose.
Brigitte hauled her into the kitchen, where they had words, in French and Italian, even a little Spanish.
Sometime later Long Nose stormed out of the kitchen and into the one and only bedroom. She didn’t even look at me. An age later she appeared in a red sparkly jumpsuit, heavily made up. 
‘Going out?’ I asked.
Brigitte was sitting next to me on the settee, but avoided eye contact with her flatmate.
‘Yes, I’m going out and maybe I’ll bring a man back also!’
Then Long Nose was gone, slamming the front door behind her.
With the door slam ringing in our ears, Brigitte ordered me into the bedroom and pushed me onto the bed.
‘Get undressed and wait here.’
‘Why, where ya going?’
‘To get ready, I won’t be long.’
Brigitte left the room and I undressed and lay down on the bed with this thing sticking up, twitching like the nose of a sex-crazed rabbit. 
‘Ta, da!’ said Brigitte on her return.
I looked at Miss Paris standing there in nothing but a black bra, knickers, stockings and suspenders, and rose from the bed like an Olympian. I tore her knickers and bra off, leaving the stockings and suspenders on for aesthetics, and threw her to the bed. Then we embarked on some frenzied love-making inspired by the events portrayed in La Bete. 

Afterwards I washed my red raw cock in the bathroom and smoked a cigarette, blowing the smoke out of a small window. We’ll never fuck like that again, I ruminated, it just wasn’t possible. There was a big moon out. I gazed over some rooftops. A cat appeared, slinking along, silhouetted against the big silver moon. It reached the edge of a rooftop, arched its back, and jumped from one roof to another. Perfect. 


Joseph Ridgwell was raised in East London and is a cult figure of the literary underground both in the UK and abroad. Ridgwell has published five collections of poetry, two short story collections, and three novellas. A second collection of stories was published by New York’s Bottle of Smoke Press in Summer 2015: 

Ridgwell Stories was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize and was long-listed for the 2016 Saboteur awards.

In November 2015 - Leamington Books - published his long-awaited debut novel - Burrito Deluxe - On the Road for the Offbeat Generation.

Also published in 2016 were Jamaica & Mexico forming a trilogy with Cuba, which was published in 2014. The trilogy is published by Pig Ear Press.

A 6th collection of poetry - Cosmic Gigantic Flywheel - is due to be published in 2018 by Lenka Editions in Paris.

A 7th Collection of poetry - The Lost Beach Poems - will be published by New York’s Bottle of Smoke Press in the summer of 2018.

Ridgwell’s work has also appeared in numerous anthologies.

For further details of the authors work and current state of mind go to his website: