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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Rod Mengham

Prose Poem: Concession To Perpetuity No.166

YOU CAN IMAGINE the gestures appropriate to this tale of injury, of bruises given and taken during the headlong slide down shallow cliffs. When biting the kerb in a Paris street, there is no recompense, no handfuls of clay with which to sign the mould for your own passing bell. The master of a workshop with no assistants, preparing the ground for an alien vocation, rickety tools, zero patronage. That is the dream of recycling: a brightly suited council worker searching for rubbish in the tundra. Pheromones guide him along ancient tracks now covered by swamps and hummocks. Back at the depot, we are all posted as missing in action, after ritual exchanges of food and traditional dancing. Finely printed raffle tickets make the claim for a complex notoriety. Such is the display of legs.
      Cats have always stalked the necropolis, sniffed the embalming fluid, known about decomposition through access to other frequencies. We sat in the snug at The Cardinal, debating the etymology of ’riot’, a hound’s following of the wrong scent. Even with the volume turned down, you cannot hear the feet of those running towards you until the last possible moment. They feed the desires of Pavlov: for whom lemmings were the ultimate challenge. What is it that causes you to bark? The burglar causes me to bark, that and the sheer pleasure of resounding, when the torches flare and the winds bluster. Yelping, snapping or growling in the conditional mood would impress me. Control exhalation, shake the tongue, wait for the larynx to drop; and don’t come back until it has.
      The dead men’s coins are heads and tails, slightly uneven in weight, the right eye worth a full Ionian dollar, the left eye gone blind before the mast, staring at Caesar’s image. The coffin encloses a series of lead stalagmites. The scalloping around the base signifies ’embalmed but conscious’. These hinges of the brain, these hooks (in the early models) of implication, have their false flings and tantrums, but they are part of the song. With barely a mouthful of rice between meetings, with his ear pressed to the office safe, he is rumoured to have gone for the ’Big Click’, the barely audible passe partout of this glossary of insinuations.
      After death, you go to an hotel, which hotel is called the Hotel de Nantes, where breakfast is not included. Close by is an architectural feature admired by the Surrealists, most especially by Robert Desnos (check this). An arcade without a project, a bow without a string, an issue without a body, a bone without hyperlinks. It is better to shop in a store that has been shopped in before. There are fewer cruel streaks in the fabric of this mirror unfit for the task of holding your breath. Your shoulders are in a different class, however.

Rod Mengham

Rod Mengham is the Director of Studies in English at Jesus College, Cambridge, and the publisher of Equipage Press, a leading small publisher of contemporary poetry.
   You can obtain a list of Equipage titles by writing to Rod Mengham at Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL, United Kingdom, enclosing return postage.
   Photo copyright © John Tranter, 2000

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