Middle Age by Mike Jenkins

Middle-age is when

you begin to get sensitive

about the crowd swearing at bald refs.

 

It’s when your daughter’s

History homework’s on Dunkirk

and she asks ‘Were you around then?’

 

You look in the mirror every morning

glad that you’re short-sighted

and haven’t got your glasses on.

 

Certain nouns slip out of memory

to be replaced by verbs

like ‘to sleep’ and ‘to lie’.

 

It’s when you want time

to go rapidly to the next holiday,

yet halt completely before you die.

 

It’s when your appalling flatulence

is exposed to your spouse

and you don’t even bother to say ‘Pardon!’

 

You acquire irritable and incurable

ailments in corners of your body

and consider using herbal remedies.

 

You decide you need a new challenge:

working without a tie, your naked

adam’s apple is swallowed by the boss’s eyes.

 

Middle-age is when you take yourself for granted:

treat your dreams as pieces of furniture,

get rid of them on a skip.

 

It’s when you’re addicted to routine

and you don’t admit it, keep on taking it

till you O.D. on those same old scenes.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto

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Blue Notebook, No. 10 by Daniil Kharms

There once lived a red-headed man who had no eyes or ears.

He also had no hair, so he was only in a manner of speaking called red-haired.

He couldn’t speak, since he had no mouth. He had no nose either.

He didn’t even have arms or legs. And he had no stomach, and he had no back, and he had no spine, and he had no innards at all. He had nothing at all! So there’s no knowing who we are talking about.

We’d better not talk about him any more.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

The Beetle by Nikolay Oleynikov

In a beaker sits a beetle,

sits and sucks his tawny leg.

He’s been caught. He has been sentenced,

and for ruth he does not beg.

 

He casts glances at the sofa,

in his sorrow half-alive;

there he sees the vivisectors,

honing axes, whetting knives.

 

An efficient young assistant

boils the scalpel on the heater,

at the same time gently whistling

something from the early Beatles.

 

He can whistle, brainless monkey,

licensed butcher from the dregs!

And the beetle in the beaker

sits and sucks his tawny legs.

 

He observes the surgeons closely,

and his eyes begin to roll…

He would not have been so frightened

had he known there is a soul.

 

But we’ve learned from modern scholars

that the soul is not at issue:

fat and kidneys, blood and choler

are the soul’s immortal tissue.

 

All that makes us hustle-bustle

are some ligaments and muscles.

 

This is science. Facts are stubborn

but are easy to apply.

And he wrings his arms (the beetle),

he is ready, he will die.

 

Now the resident approaches,

the MD who cuts and rips;

on the beetle he discovers

what he needs between the ribs.

 

And he throws and sticks the patient,

as he might have stuck a boar,

then he bares his teeth and, beastlike,

fills the workroom with his roar.

 

Whereupon the vivisectors

grab the beetle’s carcass, and

some explore his chest with pincers,

some dismember him by hand.

 

And they kicked him, flicked him, pricked him,

and they tore to death their victim.

Lacerated by that thug,

dies of injuries the bug.

 

He is cold. His eyes don’t tremble…

Then the brigands stopped their pranks

and retreated, somewhat sobered,

stepping back in serried ranks.

 

Torture, anguish – all is over.

There is nothing more to lose.

The remaining subsoil waters

from his body slowly ooze.

 

In a chink, inside the closet,

waits his son and hums a song –

‘Daddy, Daddy, where’re you, Daddy?

Pauvre garçon!

 

He will never see this father,

who could not have travelled farther.

 

There he stands, his vivisector,

bending over with the lads –

ugly, shaggy, grinning bravely,

with his pincers and his adze.

 

You elitist, sexist mugger,

scoundrel, scholarly and smug!

Read my lips: this little bugger

is a martyr, not a bug.

 

Soon the window will be opened

by the coarse, unfeeling guard,

and he’ll find himself, our darling,

on the driveway in the yard.

 

Near the porch, amid the garbage,

he will not rot (his body hacked,

with his legs all pointed upward)

and await the final act.

 

Neither rain nor sun will quicken

him who thus unburied lies.

And a chicken – yes, a chicken –

will peck out his beady eyes.

 

by Николай Макарович Олейников (Nikolay Makarovich Oleynikov)

a.k.a. Nikolai Makarovich Oleinikov

(1934)

translated by Anatoly Liberman


In ‘The Beetle’ Oleynikov continues a fable begun by Captain Lebyadkin the mad poet from Dostoevsky’s The Demons.

A Fairy Tale by Daniil Kharms

There once was a man  by the name of Semyonov.

And Semyonov went out for a walk and lost his handkerchief.

And Semyonov started looking for a handkerchief and lost his hat.

And looking for a hat, he lost his jacket.

He began to look for a jacket and lost his boots.

– Yes – said Semyonov – this is a loss – I shall go home.

Semyonov began walking home – and he got lost.

– No – said Semyonov – I’d rather sit. And he sat down.

And he sat on a stone, and fell asleep.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1933)

translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky


Personally I would have gone with ‘… and lost consciousness’ for the last line, instead of ‘… and fell sleep’ in order to maintain the structural repition for humourous effect even if this translation is a more accurate one.

Moithered by Mike Jenkins

She used it totally out of place

but natural as calling an infant ‘Babes!’

The poet’s moithered by all that pollution

like herself annoyed at my constant questions.

 

The word was her, chewing-gum twirler

giving so much lip and jip,

a desk-scribbler stirrer

using her tongue as a whip.

 

It was perfect for flustered:

I could imagine the artist

as all the complex phrases whirred

and churned, his hair in a twist.

 

No examiner could possibly weigh it,

no educationalist glue and frame it:

it leapt out like her laughter

and my red mark was the real error.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Red Landscapes

Capel Calvin by Idris Davies

There’s holy holy people

They are in capel bach –

They don’t like surpliced choirs,

They don’t like Sospan Fach.

 

They don’t like Sunday concerts,

Or women playing ball,

They don’t like William Parry much

Or Shakespeare at all.

 

They don’t like beer or bishops,

Or pictures without texts,

They don’t like any other

Of the nonconformist sects.

 

And when they go to Heaven

They won’t like that too well,

For the music will be sweeter

Than the music played in Hell.

 

by Idris Davies

STRIKE: Line Of Duty

 

[A knock at the door of Comoran Strike’s office. Two figures enter]

Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott: I’m Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott –

Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming : – And I’m Detective Sergeant Kate Fleming

Together: And we are from AC-12…

DS Fleming: – Wait a second, is that a cup of piss on your window sill?

DS Arnott: That’s breaking building regs…

Robin: It’s not mine!

 

[Strike walks from his office into the reception area]

Strike: What do you want?

DS Arnott: It’s come to our attention Eric Wardle has been leaking you investigative information about ongoing cases which you then go on to solve.

Strike: Who says that?

DS Fleming: Detective Carver.

DS Arnott: Kate! That’s confidential information!

DS Fleming: Sorry, I don’t know what came over me… I just felt like telling him.

DS Arnott: Don’t tell him about Anstis then…

Strike: Oh, so Richard Anstis is involved in this too? He owes me a leg… you might say an arm and a leg.

 

[Suddenly a senior police officer bursts through the door]

Superintendent Ted Hastings: What the feck is going on here you two?

DS Arnott: We don’t know Guv, he just has an effect on us both!

Super Hastings: [Addressing Strike] You listen here son – we have you bang to rights.

Strike: Then I have no choice…

 

[Strike leaps out the window quickly followed by Robin]

Narrator v/o: Little did AC-12 know but the secret identity of down on his luck private detective Cormoran Strike was that of the super detective COMORANT MAN! Aided by his trusty sidekick Robin (who is in no way an intended copyright infringement on any other superhero sidekicks who may go by a similar homophone or name) they fight crime through sheer coincidence using their author given ‘make up an expertise in the necessary skill on the spot’ writing.

Super Hastings: The Comorant Strikes again!

 

[outside walking down the road in slow motion Comoran is smoking and Robin is not looking where she’s going as she looks up a new job to apply for on her phone]

Robin: Thank goodness we both took advanced courses in stunt work!

Strike: Actually I didn’t. I just got blown up by an IED on tour in Afghanistan. On the bright side my tuition only cost me a leg. Get it… ‘it cost an arm and a leg’… and I lost my leg… but… not an arm…

 

[Robin looks at him awkwardly not sure what to say since the BBC might censor this scene for fear of offending someone. They continue walking down the street]

Strike: Quick Robin! To the Comorant Copter!

Robin: We don’t have one…

Strike: The Comorant Cycle!

Robin: Nope…

Strike The… Comorant… um Canoe? Cart? Chariot? Crop duster? Caravan? Caravel? Catamaran? Coach? Compact car? Coupe? Cruise ship? Container ship? Clipper ship? Cutter? Cable car? Convertible? Container ship? Conveyor belt? Covered wagon? Crane? Combine harvester? Chair lift?

Robin: Nope none of them. Not even a Convoy.

 

[a few minutes pass as Strike, with a thousand yard stare, suffers PTSD with only the cigarette in his mouth twitching to show he’s still alive before he recovers]

Strike: Bugger… um, alright… let me use my trusty Cormarant lighter, ‘strike’ up another cigarette and we’ll go down the pub.

Robin: Won’t they find us there?

Strike: No way. This is London – there are loads of pubs!

Robin: But I found you there after knowing you only a few days. I’m sure they’ll –

Strike: – Well hopefully I’ll be so drunk by the time they find me I won’t care!

Narrator: SO CONTINUE THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF COMORAN STRIKE AND HIS ‘WE’RE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP NOR WILL WE EVER BE’ SIDEKICK! UNTIL NEXT TIME, SAME CORMORANT TIME, SAME CORMORANT CHANNEL!

THAT’S ALL UNTIL THE NEXT TIME ” COMORANt STRIKEs”!