So there we are down by the old canal
Me, Jonesy, Rodent Matt, lost in banal
Contemplation, the kind that always comes
From smoking too much white. Not so much dumb
As deadened, quite detached, though erudite
Enough to stall the ever-present shite
Spilling from the gutters as stars vomit
Their message on the sky – I need a hit.
Rodent Matt is looking awfully ill
Today. I think I blame the dodgy pills
We nicked from that old pikey in the park,
Spesh in hand and piss down his trousers. Dark
Pits for eyes and a dribble for a smile.
He won’t miss them, he’s only got a while
Left I think. It’s cirrhosis of the soul,
The creeping rot that turns a heart to coal.
Back to the point, in case you’re wondering
How Rodent got his name, now here’s the thing:
He’s terrified of rats, petrified stiff
Of their furry bodies. Just one small sniff
Is enough to make him roll up and cry.
Maybe in a past life he was mugged by
A gang of them. Nothing surprises you
In London. I swear it’s usually true.
Unfortunately, for Matt at least, there’s
An irony nestling in this affair
Ready to nibble his nuts – for you see
It all comes out under close scrutiny.
The guy looks like a rat himself, lank hair,
A pointed muzzle, little beady stare
Poking from pockmarked skin. One final sting,
His telltale habit: nervous chittering.
Right now he’s pacing back and forth beside
The dirty water, eager to confide
In someone what he’s just discovered here.
You’d think he’d glimpsed an everlasting beer
Or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
I’m bored, I think I might as well jump on
The dumb bandwagon, ask him what he’s found,
It beats just staring at the vacant ground.
What’s he seen? I hear a manic squeaking,
The canal’s full of junk and it’s reeking
Of excrement and dead fish, something worse
Perhaps. You read the headlines, it’s perverse
What goes on round here. Matt, for Jesus’ sake
Calm down! My fucking head begins to ache.
I spot ‘salvation’ hiding in the murk,
My sigh spills out too late, he’s gone berserk.
Jonesy is lost in thought, hands gripping tight
Round his machine. A thin breeze of pale light
(i.e. crack smoke, to the pure and naïve)
Like the faint breath of summer corpses, weaves
Its way between the rocks of air and blends
Into dusk. Poetic shit? Yes my friends
But pardon me, narcotics make you so,
High as a kite and spilling what I know.
He’s a funny bloke, our Jonesy, as it
Goes. When we first met up he said he’d quit
His job slitting arses with a Stanley
To head back south and look for family
But then the white horse kicked him in the face.
Oh great, I thought he might be ex-rat race,
Axed for good when he lost the will to sing.
The axe in his hand isn’t comforting.
Matt’s pointing now into the stained morass,
Hopping in glee at what he sees. Alas
It’s clear his treasure hunt is down the pan,
Deep in the mud sits an upturned tin can
Looking as much like gold as my arse does
Like the Sistine Chapel. Coated in fuzz
And weed, and god knows what else from the street,
Perfect amidst our sprawl of creased concrete.
Jonesy doesn’t so much snap back as fold
Gently into public mode. His pipe’s cold
Between his paws, gripped tight like a vital
Antidote. Pained by Matt’s bizarre recital,
He knuckles over close to take a peek.
I hesitate to call the status bleak.
A nutter with a GBH BA
Is not the type to fill with my dismay.
Meanwhile Matt is scrabbling in the dirt,
Squealing with barely contained joy. My curt
Comments washing off like spit in a storm,
Watching incredulous as he performs
His ritual. He grasps a piece of twine
Tied to the railings. Cracked up, asinine
Ideas swarm like lice through collapsed veins.
He needs a fishing rod for this campaign.
Get all the gold out, get rich (even clean?).
Admirable words, though from what I’ve seen
It never works. The mould grows from our brains
And smothers out the life as passion drains,
Disperses, fucks off somewhere where the stink
Of shit and shadows cannot reach. I think
Right now it’s all easier said than done
To try reviving a spent, dying sun.
I’ve had enough of these neurotic games.
Scratching off my skin and going insane.
Tasting gutters, ash gathering in my
Eyes. It’s time to wave a sickly goodbye
To my companions, lost in their long fight
Against despair. Shingle from shattered nights
Stuck in my craw. I need a little luck.
It’s hard to be an all-purpose fuckup.
Rain’s splashing down when I reach the bridge. Fat
Tourists, glutted on sad, over-priced tat,
Consumer fascists, freaks and shallow rubes
Have started to slime back towards the tube
Leaving the doorways to the plastic punks
And poseurs, spitting, swearing, acting drunk.
Still hiding – not so well – that for their sins
They come from plush, suburban origins.
Ignoring them, I pace along wet stones
Cursing the hateful weather. My sick bones
Aching. My head’s throbbing. I need to score
Some brown. Just a taste. I’m not a hardcore
User (yeah, right, whatever), still there’s no
Way of turning back. Fuck me I’m skint though.
The problem: can’t stay out begging in this,
A dirty downpour like the devil’s piss
A quick root around in my pocket shines
No light. Just coppers for the phone, a shrine
Of pins and potions, and a fucked lighter.
No memorabilia of a brighter
Time. That funny image gets me dreaming
So much so that my feet refuse to cling
To the cobbles, and horizontal rain
Slams me into the dirt in jarring pain.
Jesus suffering fuck! I’m lying there
Panting like a drowned dog, shit in my hair
And grazed palms howling out their annoyance,
Ready to hand it all in when I glance
Something nestled cosily by the trees:
A leather wallet! Humbled on my knees
I know the good lord isn’t that hostile,
You could cheer dying orphans with my smile.
But philanthropic gestures have to wait
When there’s a chance of heroin. Sedate
And feeling fair, a good deal less like death,
Guess I’m no longer just an old stain left
On a dampened pavement. My left arm grabs
My prizes from the worn down, watered slabs
And I’m away, rolling into the green,
Clasping the loot, like jewels to a queen.
So there I am, crouched in a foetal ball,
Like a sweaty bollock. Even the squall
Around me, dissipated, calm, refrains
From interfering with my relish. Drains
Gurgle happily. Gripping the stylish
Pocketbook in grubby hands, proud as pish,
I still my nerves and fondle at the crease,
Scanning the scene with panic for police.
The leather’s practically new. The bloke
Who dropped it must have had a toke
On some strong shit. More money than good sense
(Except he’s got none now). I’m tense
As I reach inside, tingling down my spine,
Its promise stabs the skin of the sublime.
Wait… what’s this? Oh god, oh sweet fucking shit!
Who the hell carries an empty wallet?!
Broken out of my tortured reverie
A low grunting, and a high pitched banshee
Wail spasm on the breeze from deep inside
The bushes. Sure enough, lying on dried
Dogshit, spent needles, random puke, (junkie
Fresh, without care) camps a monstrosity.
Blondie the filth wizard and his new girl,
It’s just enough to make me want to hurl.
I wish them all the best. I really do.
By the sound of things he’s just shot his goo
And she’s not looking too bad herself. They’ve
Never tried to scam me yet. They’re both slaves
To the fix but nice as crackheads go. Shame
It’ll all go wrong. No mates survive. Lame
Beggars clutching at various degrees
Of mugs and nuts, and potential fuckees.
I’ve never had much luck with love myself.
When you’re a fat bastard, small cocked, with ‘health
Problems’ and a face to make lepers sick
You don’t beat them off with a shitty stick,
Then there’s the cost of a full time habit
And often difficulty getting it
Up. Just like playing snooker with a piece
Of string, I tell you. No joy. No release.
Still, occasionally they drifted through
My life as I fumbled round like a blue
Arsed fly. Rosa, my starlight, such a lush
Summer breeze. Bad case of vaginal thrush.
Abby, young and vibrant, she knew how
To turn it on. But what a cheating cow.
I burnt her picture in a dustbin. Scarred
Forever. From then on I was on guard.
Fuck it, you live and learn, as Becki said,
She was my kind of girl, gave awesome head
And used to shit in condoms so she could
Make her own dildoes. Genius. Think she would
Have made it if she’d only kept her shine,
Squashed by a tube train on the Northern Line.
They’re all gone now and that’s just fucking tough,
All flushed away like stained bogroll. Enough.
I’d stay and chat but pressing matters scream
Out for attention. Here’s the general theme:
‘Want drugs, need drugs, get me some drugs you cunt!
The bloody wallet trick was an affront
From some sick tosser. Beg here for a while
We only need a tenner, not a pile!
And, matey, if you’re bored watching time pass
Go get a drink, he’ll wait here on his arse.’
Some rotten bastard’s spewed up in the phone
Booth. I gingerly edge past with a groan
As my foot squishes against something that
May have been pizza, or perhaps dead cat.
Reminders of that fucking foul old joke
About two hungry tramps, the masterstroke
Being the desperate need for a hot meal,
Do wondrous things to help the way I feel.
My shrapnel forced into the slot with a
Cruise missile delicateness, a cliché
Of smile spears across my October face
When J sounds from the other side. The chase
Is on! A ten B please my dear fellow,
Yes, ambrosia to make me mellow
Enough to know I have the full power
To mend my sad soul (for a few hours).
I spin down the pavement past the winos
Huddling from their own lives, with sodden clothes
And dirty oil spills for eyes. Living dead
Corpse meat, draining their final dregs with dread.
Fuck them. When I want I can stop hitting,
It’s different, I’m not like them, shitting
In their own holes and blaming other selves,
Pride filed away on dusty mental shelves.
There in the park the lost hopes are sprouting
Like scars. A crass congregation, pouting
And pawing for their daily, dirty bread.
Listen carefully now, that’s not the tread
Of angels, just the shiv-shined scratch of smog
Against skin. But lo! Pushing through the fog,
The piper comes bringing his own fine cheer,
To break our boredom, take away our fear.
J’s firm deal in guns right out Leyton way.
They shift some gear round here. It helps him pay
For his daughter’s education. How sweet.
Some dodgy things afoot, but he’s discreet.
He got sliced up a while back and used to
Consider that it was something to do
With me. Natural strain occurred. But nice
To know he never used his merchandise.
The herd splutters in mad collective lust
Jostling each other in each painful thrust
Of sharp anticipation. I stand firm.
I’m fucked if someone’s pushing past my turn.
A slippery cunt tries to elbow me
Out of the way but eventually
I blister up beside the tight, hard hands
And snatch a wrap of rich, ripe contraband.
For a second J meets my gaze. His stare
Suggests I’m skating on thin ice. Beware.
He’d not piss up my arse if my kidneys
Were on fire. Were it not for money
He’d probably have torn me a new hole
By now. I didn’t do shit, but control
Over punters is every dealer’s craze,
You just can’t beat paranoia these days.
You get to know the slime scene players well,
Enough to wish them all a place in hell.
From destroyers to destitute destroyed,
Pitching their tents across the bloodless void
And plucking out all things that try to glow
Or gasp for a greener air. These thin crows
Watch me as I retch-roar with thick delight
Knowing that I am sorted for the night.
Cramming the gear into my grinning gob
For safe keeping, I break off from the mob
Of gutter-bums with relief. It’s too hot
To hang around, even at night. I spot
A suspicious parked van. Could be Old Bill
Waiting to pounce. Little can beat the thrill
Of having got away with it scot free,
They might pick up the rest – they’ll not get me!
The city has hacked out all its phlegm for
The time being, and now even the whores
Have staggered off to file their folded gains
And scrape the cum from their rotting remains.
The pissheads snore and snort, safe from a world
That doesn’t give a toss about them, curled
Up in doorways. The streets have shed their ghosts,
And all that mighty heart is comatose.
So back we go down steps black as dried bile
Crunching on iron arteries, fertile
With the filth that sprays out of bruise-bold tracks.
It’s getting hard to pull apart night’s stacks
Of coppery shadows. Jonesy’s still there,
Fine, happy as Larry, without a care
Though that’s just him. I wonder, where is Matt?
I hope he drowned himself, the dozy twat.
I’m told the shitcunt fell into the shit
(Jonesy’s got a way with words). I’d commit
Him to a nuthouse were it me. He’s fucked
In the head. Talk of treasure, talk of luck,
Talk of anything but white and brown. Hell,
He’d dig up stiffs if he thought that they’d sell.
And now he’s scuttled off to dry his rags.
Next time he might be in a body bag.
Got my works out ready: Cotton fag butt
Bit of citric and a pin. Good. My guts
Won’t hold much longer. Haven’t got a spoon
Found a bottle lid to use though. The moon
Grinds its light haphazardly into dust,
There’s no time left for loving or for trust,
Another night, who gives a flying fuck,
No long goodbyes, piss off. I’m shooting up.
So there we are down by the old canal
Me, Jonesy, Blondie, all your favourite pals
Even what’s left of Matt. All held by smack,
That simian sweat rolling down our backs.
An erudite account? It’s mainly lies,
The past is dead, we watch the future die.
The rain has scored our shadows from the street.
The drugs are all. Repeat, repeat, repeat.