Category: offbeat

“A lonely man is a lonesome thing, a stone, a bone, a stick, a receptacle for Gilbey’s gin, a stooped figure sitting at the edge of a hotel bed, heaving copious sighs like the autumn wind”

The Offbeats – Mike Covey

Act 1

Scene 1

Two young men are strolling down winding cobblestone streets in a pub
district of London, talking in cockney accent. The dark night streets vaguely
lit up by the interior lights of various pubs; various crowds milling about
talking drinking laughing leaning against the tables and the mossy stone
structures of ancient and gaudy decorated buildings.

Ben Myers dressed like a dandy in fancy clothes, pint in hand, not a care
in the world:

“The thing about writing…is to catch the eye of the reader. Get their
attention. Something…different. Something…I don’t know, they haven’t
seen before.”

Joe Ridgwell pint in hand, cigarette in the other; wearing ordinary clothes,
but trying to imitate the look of a young artisan:

“Yeah, yeah. But it has to be real. It has to…have an effect on them.
Change them. You know. Mean something. Mean everything. The rest is
just glitter fraud fake. A waste of time. If it doesn’t mean something…it’s
just sham. It isn’t real. It doesn’t mean anything. Know what I mean?”

Ben: “Of course, of course. But nobody’s gonna listen, if you don’t punch
it up a bit. Pitch it with the old pizzazz. Spring it on them from out of the
blue. Or maybe something…something totally new. Something wild…and
weird and foreign and startling. Make ‘em sit up and take notice. Make
‘em jump outta their chairs, crane their necks to get a peak at what you’re
up to. Make ‘em…come running from outta the shadows just to get a
glimse, a taste…”

Just then a young man comes running from the shadows, nearly colliding
with the two men. He grabs at them, catches himself, all outta breath:

“Did you see her?”

Ben: “Who?”

Young man: “My girl, my Melinda. She’s run off with a thong peddler
from Hollinshed!” Shouting now: “Did you see them?”

Joe, looking behind him and motioning toward the long dark alleyway,
nothing visible in the blackness of the night: “Down there, mate. Not a
moment ago.”

Young man, running off into the dark: “Thank you, thank you.”

Ben, looks at Joe, grinning at the obvious lie: “There, you see what I
mean? Action passion affairs of the heart, adventure, crazy zany off the
wall stuff. Run off with a thong peddler? His Melinda, huh? You can’t
make this up. It’s perfect.”

Joe: “Not if you’re him.”

Ben: “But that’s just the half of it, don’t you see? If it were my Melinda
…run off with…a shopkeeper from Trent . Nobody’d give a rat’s ass.
My troubles, my despair, wounded broken heart.” He clutches at his
chest and dramatically falls against the dark building. “and life’s over
and done with. The same thing, you see. But no punch to it. …a thong
peddler, no less”

Joe: “The quickest way to a girl’s heart…”

Both of them laughing in unison: “…is through her thong.”

Ben, pushing Joe away, and waving arms into the air, singing loudly into
the night: “thing me a thong…you’re the p’ano man. Thing me a thong
tonight.”

Joe, joining in the act: “Cause Melinda’s run off with a peddler. And
aint this a wonderful life.”

Fade out to piano music.

Act I

Scene II

The two young men push their way into a lit up crowded pub. Make
their way to a bare wooden table where another young man is seated.
Matthew Coleman, well-dressed well-heeled reading Rimbaud from a
small worn poetry book. Doesn’t look up when the others sit down
beside him.

Ben: “Hey Matthew! How’s the night life treating us?”

Coleman waves his hand detached still reading. Finally looks up,
acknowledges his two companions.

Joe: “How ‘bout some drinks over here?”

A pretty waitress approaches carrying a round of Guiness on a tray. Joe
grabs three pints and winks at the girl.

Joe: “Bring us some ale, when you get ‘round again, m’love.”

He pats her on the backside, lets his hand slide down to her leg. Ben
watches the path of his hand, bending down to follow.

Waitress: “And who’s gonna pay?”

She nods at the pints, plus a couple of glasses of wine already on the
table. Coleman looks at her then at Ben who reacts with open, empty
arms.

Coleman: “Him.” Nodding toward Joe.

Ridgwell makes a face like he’s used to it but none too pleased. Then
takes a long drink, half-emptying the pint, and lights up another cigarette.

Ben: “Can smoke in her, pal.”

Joe, unconcerned: “Yeah, she’ll probably mention it when she gets back
around.”

Ben, to Matthew: “Hey, guess what we just saw. You’ll never believe it.”

Before he can explain, a gorgeous young girl comes back from the
bathroom sits down beside Coleman. He looks at his two friends then
remembers he ought to make introductions.

Coleman: “Melinda.” Then looking at her “couple a ruffians from the
street…joining us for a drink. You don’t mind?”

The girl looks at the two, sees a warmth in their eyes though a bit of a
hungry stare from Ridgwell: “Course not, the more the merrier I always
say.” Picks up her wine glass and finishes it: “Cheers.”

Ridgwell looks at Myers, wondering about the coincidence in names.

Ben: “So…how’d you two meet?”

Melinda: “Oh…it was lovely. Out on the bridge, Derek offered me a pair
of thongs for my feet. Said it was a gift. Didn’t even have t’pay for
‘em.”

Ben, looking at Matthew: “Derek?”

Coleman, still reading, looks up from his book: “Oh…yes, what?”

Before he can continue, a red-cheeked young man pushes through the
crowd and confronts them fists clenched: “Melinda! There you are.”

He grabs her, pulls her up then reaches for Coleman’s throat grabbing
onto the lapels of his coat. Ridgwell gets to his feet in front of the angry
young man.

Joe: “Hold on now, mate…”

Myers jumps up and grabs the man from behind freeing his grasp from
Coleman. The man swings his arm back throws Myers to the side then
punches Ridgwell in the mouth. Myers flies into him from behind knocking
him down on top of Joe. Coleman gets up grabs his glass of wine, decides
to take a pint of the Guiness too. Casually makes his way through the
crowd and out the door.

A couple of large bald-headed or crew-cut bouncers grab Myers and
Ridgwell escort them out the side door of the pub pushing them into the
dark alley. They regain their footing and find Matthew seated at a table
toward the front of the alley.

Ben: “Thanks Matthew. What was all that about?”

Coleman looks up, nonchalant: “Lover’s quarrel I imagine. Was
wondering how I was gonna get rid of that girl.”

The two sit down. Ridgwell picks up the pint of Guiness and empties it:
“Get rid of her?”

Coleman: “Great girl marvelous in bed. But that’s all she wants to do.”

He looks at the others, sees there’s need for further explanation: “Had
to call in sick from work barely had time for lunch. The girl’s crazy.
Just wants it…all the time.”

Joe, mulling it over: “What’s her last name, phone number?”

Coleman waves it off with his hand: “Not your type, Joseph. No…
artistic nature. No, appreciation for the classics.”

Joe: “I could teach her…”

Matthew: “Tried that. In between…but, was like I was talking French or
something.”

Ben, looking at the poetry book: “Maybe you were.”

Coleman: “Ah…yes, but doesn’t really matter does it? You could tell by
her eyes. Sorta glazed over all the time.”

The angry young man finds them in the alley his girlfriend in tow. Sheepish
look on his face now. Extends his hand awkwardly to Coleman. Melinda
having explained things.

Young man: “Sorry mate. Didn’t know you’s her cousin.”

Coleman exhuberantly: “Not a problem my good fellow. We all make
mistakes, no?”

They leave and the waitress comes out with a round of ale.

Waitress: “It’s on him. The bloke who just left.”

Ridgwell: “When you getting off, m’dear?”

Waitress, sternly: “I don’t want to see any of you’s back here again.
Stirring up trouble.”

She turns to go then looks back at Joe: “Around midnight , love.”

They watch her leave. Coleman casually drinks his pint as if nothing’s
happened. Starts to open up his book then thinks of something else.

Matthew: “That reminds me. Lee Rourke’s reading some of his stuff
tonight, at seven or so. I’m supposed to be there.”

Ben looks at his pocket watch, chained to his rumpled vest: “It’s nine-
thirty.”

Matthew: “Good. He should be done by now. Let’s go round and see.”

The three of them pick up the pints from the little table and make their
way down the busy street, up the hills toward Covent Garden . Along
the way taxi’s weave in and out of traffic, people push by on crowded
little sidewalks hurrying to and fro. Ridgwell drains his beer leaves the
empty glass on the window sill of another pub along the sidewalk.
Hurriedly lights up a cigarette as they approach their objective, an artsy
looking side-street bar.

Act I

Scene III

They enter just as Lee Rourke is finishing his reading to polite
applause.

Coleman clapping his hands loudly: “Bravo, bravo, well done.”

Club Web ~ Bill Ectric

I dedicate this poem to William S. Burroughs. After the poem, my friend April Kittinger picks my brain for an explanation.

A vampire game rave club, The Club Web
Crowd chatters up a staircase, painted harlequins or corpselike
the Queen’s wonders discussed on drama slowly from the drug effects
Boy on two days leave, shook his head, you folks be fools.

He who winks trouble picture gallery
And effective blood human seduced and go
out into the curious crowd wise wicked entice consent a glass of sherry
Master of Ceremony greeted with a high shrill need.

No sex scene so dreamily erotic
Perfect, these remarks, he took him and opened a path
but to the hungry soul voice one knows special, indeed beautiful the night
Into the office now, men looked back here, eyes cause trouble.

Go for a walk with me
The stone side-path and rich rooms connect
sweet honeycomb, there are attractions circling around everything
Behind an arm and better wait who fools with wicked

He stranger-invited her, on all levels the fire began
To the move he by by the out he he forward he but he he he loathes…
The townspeople surge onto the marble walk, look down, satisfied it was not their soul,
Another wide-eyed pretty trickles sherry red.

April Kittinger Searches for Meaning
in Bill Ectric’s poem, Club Web

This interview first appeared in April Kitty, an independent newspaper distributed without permission at the University of North Florida, Florida Community College of Jacksonville, and Jacksonville University.
APRIL KITTINGER: Club Web is kind of Goth isn’t it?

BILL ECTRIC: Yes, and I’m happy to hear you say that, because that’s what I was going for.

APRIL: How did you write it?

BILL: Club Web is a cut-up poem, hence the dedication to William S. Burroughs. I chose five different books, which were totally unrelated to one another, and took a couple of sentences from each book. I mixed them up on a web site called the Grazulis Cut-Up Machine. After I mixed up the words, I began manipulating them into new sentences. Soon, a story suggested itself, partly within the new sentences and partly in my mind. With this story in mind, I made the words fit my purpose.

APRIL: It seems to take place in a rave club, but also a vampire role-playing club.

BILL: Right. That’s what it is. Maybe they are not real vampires, but maybe a real vampire walks among them. Or, maybe it is an analogy for a sexual predator. It can be both, of course.

APRIL: What’s the deal with the “queen’s wonders”?

BILL: I admit this is vague. In my vision, I saw the owner of the club as a distinguished, extravagant drag queen, who takes great pride in the decor, the surroundings, the ambiance of the nightclub. The patrons are impressed! It is not necessarily an exclusively gay bar, but all types of people are here.

APRIL: Why is the voice “shrill”?

BILL: Well, it’s like, they are all very enthusiastic about the club, and they are being greeted ceremoniously, but underneath it all is a trace of unhealthy need, expressed in the shrillness. I’m not saying a certain sexual orientation is unhealthy, I’m talking about what Burroughs calls “control” by drugs, lust, thirst for power, thirst for blood.

APRIL: And someone is being seduced in some way?

BILL: Yes. Seduction and maneuvering.

APRIL: What about the honeycomb and the buzzing?

BILL: Really good nightclubs have more than one level, and passageways to connecting rooms, walkways, one might say, like a honeycomb. In the phrase “rich rooms connect” I use the word “rich” as in vividly satisfying, a description of the connecting rooms. Next, think of pheromones, those chemicals that animals secrete to attract the opposite sex. That is the sweet attractions circling around everything – the word “sweet” goes with both the richness of the rooms and the sweetness of the attractions; as we say, the “birds and the bees” as a reference to sex. So it’s like bees buzzing, and it can also describe the “buzz” from drugs or alcohol. Two people go for a walk on a stone sidewalk. Enchantment is all around.

APRIL: And then you say, ‘He stranger invited her.”
BILL: Yeah, he stranger-invited her. We teach our children, “Don’t go with strangers! If a stranger invites you to come with them, don’t go!”

APRIL: What happens next? Why did you repeat words like, “he, he, by, he, by . . .”

BILL: It’s intended to convey a sense of loathing, because it’s so terrible you cannot speak it without a stutter, as in, “What did he do to you?” “He, he, he…”

APRIL: And the climax. A girl is dead, right?

BILL: In my mind, I pictured a pretty young person lying on the sidewalk. She could have bloody vampire bites on her neck if you want to see this as a supernatural poem. Or she could have a stab wound from a knife. Like, remember that song, Mack the Knife? The part of the song that says, “On the sidewalk, lies a body…oozing life; someone’s sneaking round the corner, could that someone be Mack the Knife?”

APRIL: I think that was a little before my time. Who sang it?

BILL: Bobby Darin, girl!

APRIL: Was he in the Rat Pack?

BILL: No. Not in the Rat Pack. But he might have hung out with them, I don’t know.

APRIL: Is the girl on the sidewalk dead? Or will she turn into a vampire?

BILL: Well, it’s open to interpretation, but it’s definitely vampire imagery all the way through.

Kinder Than the Day ~ William Taylor Jr

I was walking to work
and at the corner
of Turk and Hyde
I saw a woman
laid out
upon the sidewalk,
her face against the sky,

discarded by god
or someone.

Her eyes were closed,
her mouth open,
and I couldn’t see
if she was breathing.

She was just skin
and bone,
covered with
the festering lesions
of a hardcore junkie.

She could’ve been fifty
or she could’ve been twenty.

No one deemed her
worth more than
a cursory glance.

She was a fallen pigeon,
a pile of shit,
just something else
to step around.

I paused a moment
and considered
trying to wake her,
then decided
that sleep and death
were both kinder
than the day,

and like I said,
I had to get
to work.

Poems as Prayers (for Alan Kaufman) ~ William Taylor Jr

You say poems
are prayers,

and I’ve always
imagined them so.

But prayers not scraping
for favors from a bitter god

of tawdry heavens
and slaughterhouse hells,

but prayers to ourselves
and our fellow creatures
upon the earth,

prayers not asking
forgiveness but offering;

released like magic children
into the lonely city

where they drift
through streets
and alleys,

up and down the hills
with the fog

where someone may see
and understand

and maybe be a little bit saved

as they go about their way

in this church of a life,
this commune of the spirit.

Swaying ~ William Taylor Jr

You once imagined me beautiful.
In truth I was as common as a wasted day
and you were just another story
that nobody wanted to hear.
There is a kind of beauty
that is a wound we don’t
recover from,
the kind most will never see,
blind as old gods banished
and forgotten into darkness.
Our addled hearts lead us
down dubious avenues
and each choice we make
murders infinite possibilities;
see us standing on street corners
with our aborted lives still
inside us like mangled dreams
we refuse to abandon.
I stand at the window
swaying to the broken
music of the day,
looking out upon this
terrible city,
my heart full of dust
and that time I made you laugh.

Blow the Blouse ~ Volodymyr Bilyk

You’re no good
You’re talking
In your time
You’re dying
In your constance
You’re in sorrow
of your No goods

No no no
Goo Goo Goo
D.(ee) D.(ee) D.(ee)

Ha!
Let it…
let it Ha!
let it Ha!

(There’s nothing in your dye
That says it like i said before)

You’re No
You’re talking
In your –
You Are –
Of Your…

No No No

You know,
You talk
In yours –
You Are…
of yours

Or not, but..
may-be…


Bio-note:

Volodymyr Bilyk is writer and translator and occasionally visual artist. He’s also co-editor of Extreme Writing Community. Born in Ukraine.