Squatting, drugs, paganism, domesticated rats, hot cross buns, sexual morality, new-age therapies, the police, stapled heads, anarchism etc.
The Eviction of Yasser Aziz
Gelled black hair, gold chains and nylon shirts,
aftershave that blasted out in spurts,
he looked less like a squatter than a wristwatch
salesman, one whose haggling power hurts.
But he was first to scale the nursery wall,
deck out the singing-room and reinstall
some life there, as he sparked his spliffs and pissed Scotch
into midget toilets, bounced his ball,
conjured memories of loud bazaars
where camels drag their furry reservoirs,
trimmed the suburbs of his metropolis-frizzed crotch
and dreamt, below the tissue-paper stars,
He asked if I was homosexual
one night, and I said yes, my current lover
was Geoff, who slumped, white-nosed and ineffectual
against a crib, his mission to discover
what beauties glimmer in the fifth dimension,
his frozen eyeballs captured in another
world, like every night without exception,
his shaven head still stapled back together
from the party where he’d jumped headfirst
into a wall, each minute growing deafer,
his consciousness cut off, set free, immersed.
“Oh,” said Yasser, trying not to sound
as though he had a virus stamping round
his twisting, turning stomach. “Do you use
Clare, my long-held best friend whose
true faith in hidden forces would astound,
revered her mystic tarot cards and ground
unknown ingredients into powdery brews.
The broom above her door was to defuse
the ugly energy that would abound
outside on Bristol’s shadowed avenues.
Michael and Jackson, her pet rats, unwound
inside a cage fit for three kangaroos.
When Michael died, we staged a Wiccan funeral
whose elaborations would dumbfound.
Nine squatters in a circle (an odd numeral)
as solemn as some Ashkenazi Jews,
holding hands and chanting “Nibbly Bottoms!”
by a forest bonfire. It was beautiful.
She sprinkled one of her occultish stews,
lit incense, so he’d never be forgotten,
and buried Michael with his favourite chewable
toy spider in a biscuit-tin beside
his brother, Jackson, in eternal snooze.
Clare replaced the squeakers who had died
with Xylophone and Glockenspiel. Inside
their palace of a cage, they would amuse
themselves by hurtling through a labyrinth
of plastic tubes that, looping round, would glide
past ladders joining plinth to poo-stained plinth.
Like this, they had a reason to enthuse
about their lives, avoiding fratricide.
This ended in a flurry of abuse
when Salim, Clare’s incensed, nest-haired, clown-eyed
beloved, dragged the rat-cage out his door,
then hurled it, crashing into planks and screws,
down the staircase. As the clown-faced roar
of whipping, ripping words intensified
among the clatter of escaping shoes,
Xylophone was salvaged from the straw
that mixed in with the pants and orange peel
and shipped off to the nursery’s homely shore.
I waited for the whirlwind to subside,
surveyed the wreckage and began to muse
that maybe I should rescue Glockenspiel.
The snuffling, scuttling, foot-sized omnivore
possessed the maddening gumption to conceal
himself yards down a six-inch corridor
that stretched beneath my floorboards. I denied
all poisonous fantasies of rodenticide
and pondered that I possibly could reel
him out, as skilful as a matador,
with a chunk of fast-solidified
hot cross bun. So, that was what I tried.
Kneeling, feeling like an imbecile,
I wondered, “Does this bastard rat adore
infuriating me?” and, sighing, waggled
the brick-hard bread beneath my bedroom floor.
For half an hour the nibbler and I haggled
over this bit of bun, then with a squeal,
he slipped my clutches like a jellied eel.
I grabbed him, glaring in his drooping face,
and ordered, “Stop it, you! I’ve won the chase!”
and then, to crown the plague-grenade’s ordeal,
I stuffed him into Clare’s old rubber boot,
the only rodent-carrier I could trace
(he wouldn’t get inside a bowl or cup),
and trudged the twenty-minute nursery route.
A bushy-chinned white Rasta opened up,
inquiring with a puzzled look, “What’s that?”
I answered, “Just a boot. Oh, and a rat.
When Yasser met his shovel-clawed,
burrowing, scurrying, mesh-biting new flatmates,
he didn’t belt out hymns on a harpsichord.
“Why do you treat these creatures like your children?”
he asked of Clare. “In my country, we kill them.”
Not leaving toothy vermin to their rat fates
of retching guts, for Yasser, was bewildering.
He changed the subject to Clare’s plans that evening
and stroked his sprawling crotch while she was speaking.
“It isn’t every day that someone masturbates
in conversation with me,” Clare thought, sweeping
rat shit off the carpet.
whose dreadlocks shone in brightest copper-orange,
was broken, gullet creaking like a door hinge
and arid as a scorpion-littered savanna.
In vain she swallowed lozenge after lozenge
but her torture’s root lay deeper down,
deep in an engine spluttering for a spanner.
“There’s something wrong,” the freckled misfit frowned,
“with my chest.” And Yasser, with his trademark
charm, had countered, “No, your chest is nice,
it is my favourite part of you!” and twice,
he smiled like Lewis Carroll in a play-park,
believing he had sweetly complimented
an English girl. By Christ, he was a strayed shark
in swirling northern waters. Now the dice
were thrown and sensibilities offended,
the women of the nursery were settled:
no complaints or warnings could suffice.
No second chances. Yasser must be kettled
and then evicted by a steely-mettled,
chaining-armed community. And me?
My only urge was that I must defend,
right or wrong, my rodent-pampering friend,
my broomstick-mounting matriarch, since she
had given me my magic door and proof
that earthworms through eye-sockets mark no end,
the night we climbed up on a nightclub roof
in Kathmandu and felt ourselves ascend
towards a werewolf moon that I’d contend
was built in Manchester in Eighteen Seventy-
Two and made my British pride extend,
Clare cackling as the slamming pulse of heavenly
techno music, which I’d hitherto hated,
rushed me into a robotic reverie,
all my fibres starting to transcend
and kiss the grid of the amalgamated
human organism, the Rubik’s-cubic
switchboard where, like language, strands of music
are organic plants that weave and stitch
across the grid, the sweetest branch of which
is German reggae.
Judgement Day arrived.
Two dozen landlord-dodgers with an itch,
shaven-headed militants and punks,
flower-children, anarchists, all dived
into a playroom, silently as monks
beneath a swaying tissue-paper lantern,
toy guns reminding me how life’s just playing,
just playing at importance, and the canyon
of silence rustled like a rabbi praying
before plunging his sword into a goat
as outside, our four sword-and-red-rag-waving
“politely asked” a man to get his coat.
Among the ranks that marched onto our side
was rainbow-haired and rainbow-souled Louise,
who tuned the universe’s waves that hide
behind our switched-off minds and clogged-up chakras,
a hula-hooped and poi-sticked healing breeze
that wafted through our world in whispered mantras,
consulting mystic stones on bits of string
before she could decide on anything.
“I can see you growing day by day,”
she’d told me, “and it’s such a joy to watch.
But don’t forget to walk like you’re a king.
Lift your head and shoulders up a notch
and fire your eyes up to the Milky Way,
with spirit-level backbone.”
Bash! The room
vibrated in a cloud of speeding doom
as Yasser’s fist, across the silence-chasm,
sledgehammered with an incandescent fume
through elephant-wallpapered plasterboard.
“Maybe we could talk him into accord,”
someone suggested, and without sarcasm.
I reasoned, “Words are nicer than the sword,”
and crept forth, clubbing down a dread-pricked spasm.
He gaped like I was some spike-haired phantasm
rattling glass around a ouija board
and dribbling bacon-flavoured ectoplasm,
then tried to sweep me from the nursery,
along the road and back to purgatory,
his fury gushing like a whale’s orgasm,
smacking me with home-robbed fervency
across the arm. “You leave! You leave! You leave!”
There wasn’t a great deal I could achieve,
as I was just a lowly homosexual.
Louise, pressed to his door, could hear him heave
his fists and boots through wall and wooden panel
and garble like a sunstroke-maddened camel
as though his bedroom was an architectural
Star of David, as she tried to channel,
as best she could, the healing, nourishing life-rays
that bounce around the universe’s driveways
through the keyhole, into Yasser’s heart.
Sweet hippy! Never in a month of Fridays
could that have stopped him bursting from his cage
and glaring in the corridor with rage
that could have torn a zeppelin apart
at all the dreadlocks planted on the stage
and roaring, “Why are all these people here?
Get off my property!” and then, when Clare
corrected, “Mate, it’s not your property,”
while flailing a wine bottle through the air,
“To the death! Allah Akhbar!”, his eyes
like something that a priest should exorcise,
and smashing out his wine-drenched obloquy
along with the hall window. Then came cries
of “Shit! He’s got an axe! A fucking axe!”
We didn’t think his friends were lumberjacks
and so we carried out a robbery-
within-a-robbery, to shield our backs.
His bodybuilding weights were carted off
as well. “Why are you taking all my stuff?”
he blurted, standing flummoxed in the wreckage
of his home. But still, his will was tough
An “I’m not budging!” message
was fired from between those brutal teeth.
This man was stubborn as a rat beneath
a floorboard. And, alas, nobody had
a hot cross bun.
Then came the bang-bang-banging.
Knuckles on front door. The nursery froze.
“Who called the bloody filth? Is someone mad?”
The anarchists, despairing and haranguing,
faced their badge-capped, baton-trousered foes.
“Good evening. Do you have some trouble here?”
The shaking shaven heads warbled a chorus
of denial. “No, no problem. We’re
completely in control of the situation.
Sorry if we sound a little raucous.
We’re fine,” as Yasser howled his desperation
up to a bearded phantom in the sky
and hurled his bottle at a painted tortoise.
“Are you sure that’s not a blatant lie?”
the sergeant frowned. “We heard someone was waving
an axe around.”
So, life got back to normal.
Salim hid inside his bedroom slaving
away with saws and hammers, building Clare
a brand new, white-walled, mesh-barred rodent borstal.
Geoff sat gaping through his mystic portal,
through the wormholes dotted everywhere.
The staples were removed now from his head.
Young copper-eyebrowed Hannah’s chest infection
had long evaporated into air.
She asked me, as a smile began to spread,
one evening as we forged a fresh connection
milking Danish marble armadillos,
“Is it true, this rumour I’ve been hearing,
this talk of you and Geoffrey biting pillows?”
I answered, in the voice of a God-fearing
monocled aristocrat with plums
ensconced inside his mouth, “You see, good lady,
let me explain and wipe away all crumbs
of doubt, about the evening that unmade me,
an incident for which I’m still contrite
and which I curse each day with all my might
for all the misery it has engendered.
My pitiful decline began one night
during a dinner-party I attended
in Lady Ffarquharson-Smythe’s splendid hall.
We’d finished a most excellent main course
of white rhinoceros toes in acorn sauce
and I was locked in earnest conversation
proposing that we reinvade Bengal
with Lord Bramfoxton-Clunge, when all at once,
to everyone’s most righteous indignation,
God strike me down in fury and damnation,
Well, of course my wife and I
had to divorce, obviously. Such grunts
cannot be suffered in polite society.
I said to her, “My darling damson-pie,
you need a man with standards of propriety.
You mustn’t bear these flatulent affronts.
My sweetest love, my ever-faithful wife,
please, take the children, build a better life
where you will not be shunned on squirrel-hunts
for having married an immoral swine
who farts.” And so I packed my finest crystal,
a bag of pre-Napoleonic wine
and Oswald Mosley’s letter-opening pistol,
told my children they would do just fine,
shook them by the hand and came to Bristol
to greet my new, impoverished existence
among these dustbin-dining demi-tramps
who sneak through attic-flaps and keep their distance
from soap and call me “snotty-pants” and “plum-breath”
and blast their ghastly noise from so-called “amps”
which sounds like witchcraft brewed by jungle-devils,
and every sunken, draught-whipped night I’m drummed deaf
with guilt for how my sin has plunged to levels
I’d never thought conceivable, and sorrow
that I shall not wake up and see tomorrow
my billiard room, my dumb waiter and dumb chef,
or ever more sit polishing my shotguns
and strangling otters with the Duke of Melrose,
sip sugary Darjeeling in my godson’s
brothel, shake my butler by the elbows,
or dance the waltz at Lord Sprunce-Flaxworth’s ball
with my dear wife. So, as a lonely chap,
I must in all truth say that, after a small
Rioja, I would definitely bum Geoff,
if that resolves, in any way at all,
Days flicked past without a scrap
of trouble. Lightning bolt and thunderclap
subsided slowly in our minds, and seas
were calm again. Louise offered to wrap
me up in robes of conscience-soothing reiki
and tune my chakras to new frequencies,
flushing out the mist that slouched opaquely
across my soul, and let me feed her shaky
washing machine my thirsty pants and socks.
As nudity is thought unorthodox,
I stretched out in one of Louise’s garments
(her sex and taste were just small stumbling blocks).
A leopard jumpsuit. Hmmm. The tail and paws
were interesting sartorial enhancements.
I sat there catlike soaking natural laws,
with eyes shut, deep into my spiritual stores,
when hinges creaked outside and in walked Yasser.
His gaze dipped down, his gelled black hair looked flatter.
Louise had plucked him from the floor, transported him,
like a rat in a Wellington boot, through the tatters
of his world, to the safety of her sofa,
and freed him from the society that had thwarted him,
one shabby rucksack all he had to show for
a life which, all at once, had flipped him over.
He shook my hand as though it were a dish
of drowning wasps in mango juice, and asked
with the dejection of a netted fish,
“How are your people, well?”
That was the last
I ever heard or saw of him.
© Archie Macjoyce