The Miller’s Tale

It’s almost there. This is an almost there version. I’ve had some great feedback suggesting I make it more explicit and even closer to the original. And I’ll work on it. But the rewrite’s on hold: I need to work on The Manciple’s Tale  for the Canterbury Tells anthology i.e. something less rude that your mum could read (or more speficially, the mum’s of the young writers selected for the anthology).  But if you’re intrigued by The Miller’s Tale and dying for a sneak preview, read on…

The Kiss

Get me a pint of Southwark piss!
It all took place in a pub like this.               
My tongue is black as licorice,
my tale is blue and it goes like this:

I’m just eighteen and newly wed.
My husband’s old an crap in bed,
my lover’s fit, well hung, well read,
his rival’s heard I give good head.

Three loves I have an two are thick:
My husband, John’s a jealous prick,            
the rival, Abs, thinks with his dick.     
My lover’s sharp, his name is Nick,

he’s in his final year at Greenwich,
high on French and Astrophysics.          
He’s proposed but I’m a bitch,
I’d leave my husband, but he’s rich.

A carpenter, an ancient oak          
with a heart tattoo, a real blokes bloke,      
crashed out on what he thought was coke   
and fifteen pints of ale. Nick’s joke.

John owns the pub. We live upstairs
an every night he…says his prayers
while Nick, our lodger, flirts downstairs
where Abs, our bouncer, sells his wares. 

For weeks it’s been all talk an texts,
the kiss me quick with a pint of Becks.
Tonight’s the night, says Nick, an necks
those pills Abs recommends for sex.

This Abs comes on to guys and girls. 
He pushes weights an class A pills.
A grey-eyed blonde with baby curls
an a dick as hard as the drugs he sells.

He buys me wine, real ales an Pimms.
He likes his women weasel slim
with eyebrows plucked till they’re pencil thin.          
His drugs are class: I put up with him.

Three men walk into a pub like this
but only one can kiss the kiss.           
What is it makes my bottle fizz?
Je ne sais quoi my arse, hear this:       

What’s in a kiss? I’ll kiss and tell.
My husband’s kiss is Southwark ale,
my lover’s kiss is ‘fuck’ in braille
and I’m his fucked up femme fatale.            

My lover’s rival practises
on a rubber doll called Clitoris
but Nick, my Nick’s a specialist,
when I taste his tongue I hear him hiss        

like this! So John’s upstairs and pissed.
I’m in the bar with Nick. We’ve kissed
a thousand times but not like this
in all the cracks and crevices.

High on the pills we scored from Abs
we crawl around the floor like crabs.
We’re Adam, Eve, on hormone jabs,
we got The Knowledge like black cabs.

On bench and bar we fuck all night
and at dawn we still got appetite    
so when Abs knocks on the window, tight,  
wanting a ‘kiss’, we say, alright.

Ménage à trois in The Queen’s Head.  
Abs grabs my arse cheeks to his beard,
I fart in his face, but he ain’t been fed,     
Then, I swear on a pint of Southwark red, 

he says, as he grabs my lover, Nick!
All day my lips and dick have itched      
and I dreamt last night the food was rich. 
And Abs is dog and Nick his bitch

and Nick screams out so loud like this!        
and I can’t work out if it’s hell or bliss
and I hear the stairs and John’s still pissed 
when he slurs, What in great God’s name is this?

My husband’s so in shock to see
the men he sobers instantly
and doesn’t even notice me
until I’m dressed. So I’m scot-free

but Abs and Nick, he throws them out.
It’s made him even more devout.
Now, when I see them round about
I raise my eyebrows and I pout.

So, I was fucked; John’s a fuckwit;
and Nick, my lover fucked to shit;
and Abs scored twice, he’s fucking fit;
both men were fucked by the fucked off git.

If you drink your beer in a tulip glass             
and kiss the air cos you think you’re class     
and you don’t like this English farce,
bon appétitFrench kiss my arse.

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Biogs

I’ve suddenly, yes suddenly, written two biogs for my characters. Which is great cos I was starting to wonder whether I’d keep them all in my head, unformed, till the bitter end. Then think, how on earth am I going to squeeze them into 50 words. But it was easy. And it could be because I had to write an 80 character biog for Vicky Wilson’s Children in Need poetry anthology. Not 80 words but 80 characters. Which is less than a text. So I wrote a sentence. And didn’t think anything of it until a minute ago when I realised how it had helped me get down and get on with it. The Parson’s one was the very first thing I wrote for the book:

Rap, The Son aka ‘The Parson’: I learnt my skills on the street not the classroom. African ancestry, spitting in my hands free, born and bred and battling in Canterbury. I’ve got an ology in the trilogy: allegory, tautology, and etymology. Fired by KRS-One and the Bible: in the hip hop academy, an Old Skool disciple.

It helped launch me into the Parson’t Tale, the tale that isn’t a tale. I had to make up the tale and I had to create a character strong enough to take it on. But the Knight’s Tale was quite different. I had a vague idea about a drag queen – years ago I hung out at Kinky Gerlinky’s, the drag club at Leicester Square – so that wasn’t difficult. The tale was challenging to create and it really helped having a flamboyant teller. So, at last, here she is. She wrote it herself, it had nothing to do with me:

Queen of the Castle: I’m the illegitimate offspring of Dolly Parton and Oscar Wilde. Conceived in a Blackpool betting shop, I was dragged up off the Old Kent Road. I prefer my poets dead: they’re less trouble. I adore classical rhyming stuff but free verse is OK as long as you’re wearing adequate protection.

She’s such fun that I keep looking out for her on the tube. You really need her in that part of South London. But coming close behind, because I’ve got to the end of draft three and it’s looking almost fully formed, is ‘The Miller’:

Robyn Miller: is an English with Creative Writing student at Goldsmiths College, London. She’s a part-time barmaid, and spends her free time at performance poetry gigs. She’s a huge fan of punk poets like John Cooper Clarke, Joolz and Steve Tasane. Anything that packs a punch. She lives and works in Deptford.

So they’re coming in thick and fast. And halfway through this evening as I was doing some menial chore, I thought of 253, that ‘novel’ which is in fact 253 character sketches of 253 words each, all sitting in various parts of the tube, waiting for something to happen. And I’ve just taken it down from the shelf (again) remembering that I only read about five sketches but loved the concept. Maybe I’ll read another five tonight then put it back on the shelf for another five years. In the meantime, I need to finish The Miller’s Tale because it’s extremely rude and not at all the kind of poem I’d normally write but of course, Robyn is having great fun forcing my hand. Then I’m leaping ahead to the Manciple’s Tale. I’d rather do the Reeve’s but that’s equally rude and I need to write something new for the Canterbury Tells anthology. And I’ll be sacked as Canterbury laureate if I submit something blue. The Manciples isn’t devoid of lechery and it happens to have a murder but at least it isn’t graphic. So will offer fun for all the family. Another challenge ahead. I just love a challenge…

Was She Worth It? Part 5

5.

The tall thin stateliness of number one,
the swan-like gracefulness of number two,
Emily loves. Her heart’s a precious stone
that only sparkles when our callers coo.

So Two has won the match but lost his spirit,
escaped the prison of this working life.       
He felt the wink was false; he could see through it,
knew Cupid’s poison arrow was a knife.

And One has lost the match but free to worship
dear Emily. There is no more to tell
except to ask, my darlings, was she worth it?
Is love a palace or a prison cell?

Alas, you two will join as one in marriage,
you’ll make your vows and know she feels the same
but time will show your love to be a mirage
the night she cries your number, not your name.

Was She Worth It? Part 4

4.

One year on,                     debt paid off,
Valentine’s Day,             Battle of Bingo.     
First prize                          blind date,
one will win,                     one will lose.
Emily’s judge,                  wink the winner,
Glitter ball,                       glints, glimmers,
amorous knights,           glamorous girl,
ladies and gents,             let battle commence:

Number One,                   Number Two,
Twist my tongue,        One up on you,
This is war,                      This is work,
She loves me more,      She’s spoken for,
See Emily play,              A winning line,
Only sixteen,                   59, 
She loves a rhyme,       Prefers a prime,
She worships me,          Her weekly shrine,

Her eyes are the sun,   Her eyes are blue,
It’s a metaphor,              it’s nearly new,
I’m laureate,                    I’m numerate,
Little black number,     007,     

She winked at you,           She winked at me,
She winked at you.           She looked straight through,
Then all is gone,                straight through my heart.  
I’ve lost, you’ve won,      No. I’ve lost too.

Was She Worth It? Part 3

3.

Emily! Or should I call you diva?
You’re plain as white sliced bread, you’re bottle blonde
from East Street market, but the great deceiver,
your glitter fairy, waved her magic wand

and made you ‘Who’s that girl in pink stilettos?’
and made your long thin plait a la mode,
and dragged you from the ashes of the ghetto
to make a Mayfair of your Old Kent Road.

It isn’t the adrenaline of bingo,
the flash of cash that draws you to this place,
the rough and ready rhythm or the lingo
that brings that iridescence to your face

that made One kneel to praise you as a goddess,
that made Two rise to love you in the flesh;
it’s numbers on the cards that flaunt their oddness,
numbers that taunt you with their evenness.

Numbers our callers call and yet can’t ring,
our callers, known by number not by name.
Jailbirds, they call and call as caged birds sing.
It’s work. They’ll never play the dating game.

Each number names the debt they are repaying
in days and weeks and months. In suits and ties
and hats and shades, it looks as if they’re playing –
cuff links are merely handcuffs in disguise.

Like Sam and Dave, so tight on stage and vinyl,
in private nurturing a bitter feud,
The Blues Brothers, once blood brothers, now rivals
manage, on stage, to keep a party mood

for days, for weeks, for months. Their love’s authentic
and only love can make the ball and chain
of work seem light, and moonlighting, romantic.
Until that fateful night their shifts are changed

and Two is given Sunday morning solo
so every other Saturday, he’s free
not to hang out with punters, that’s a no no,
to wait outside the club — for Emily.

Each time the lift doors open wide he sees her
in every blonde, in every high-rise shoe,
in every girl who dreams in black and fuchsia,
in every queen…I wish that it were true.

She’s here! Her lips are shocking pink, she’s chewing.
He takes a deep breath: Chanel No.19.
He looks into her eyes, she looks straight through him,
straight through his heart. She’s gone. His skinny jeans

are hanging off his hips, his skin is sallow,
his eyes are hollow, and his voice is thin.
Oh, unrequited love! Our Two’s a shadow,
behind glass doors, outside, imagining

Emily watching One. You may well ask the
question of One’s reaction to this fate?
Rigid with jealousy, the simple answer,
imagining that Two has got a date.

So One can see his lady but can’t have her,
And Two can have her but she’s having none.
Alas, my darlings, how our heroes suffer!
Who has the greater sorrow, Two or One?

Was She Worth It? Part 2

 
At the beginning, number 1       Me and you, number 2
Valentine’s Day, 14                      Coming of age, 18
Time for fun, 41                             Danny La Rue, 52.
You’re doing fine, 29                   Flirty Thirty

 
Up to tricks, 46                              Tickle me, 63
Your place or mine, 69               Down on your knees, 43
Ahhh! God’s in Heaven!             Are you OK? Lucky Seven
Whose that lady? Number 8    Legs Eleven!

 
I saw her first, 31                          Bully for you, 32
She’s divine, 89                              Girl next door, number 4
She’s looking at me, 63               I like what I see, 23
Hand’s off, she’s mine, 39          BINGO!

Was She Worth It? Part 1

1.

Two men in love, alas, not with each other –
one’s fine, the other’s fit — but both are set
on Emily, who idolises numbers;      
The Elephant, South London, is the set

whose shopping centre was to be demolished
but, darlings, retro-branded by a queen             
who sprayed it glitter pink so now it’s ‘stylish’.
Pink’s The New Red the national headlines scream.

And on its seventh floor sits Bingo Palace
more palace, now, than bingo. Her Royal Highness
gambles – but I’m digressing – roll the cameras,
roll out the fuchsia carpet. In its highest

tower, two men moonlight as bingo callers –
‘The Blues Brothers’, a double act, in debt
but dressed up to the nines. A million dollars
enters the hall. They haven’t seen her yet.

The first, so striking, he could stop a bullet,
a roman nose distinguishes his face;
the second has the body of a ballet
dancer, moving with a swan-like grace.

The mirror ball is spinning and the players
sparkle with youth, forgetting who they are –
the Dancing Queen with two left feet, the famous
Two Fat Ladies guzzling at the bar.

Two men enter the stage as something fatal
enters the hall. A pause, and they begin
their double act that poses as a battle
of numbers, short and rounded, tall and thin.

They’ll fall in love and fall out with each other,
they’ll fall without a parachute or net,
and both their hearts will break. What are their numbers?
One’s One, the other’s Two. The stage is set.