Charity

He’s twitchy. No eye contact. As he passes my pace quickens. Footsteps move away. Then stop. I turn as he charges. Perhaps there’s the glint of a blade. I swing my briefcase in a dangerous arc. But I don’t know there’s a knife. I’ll knock him cold if I connect so I try to fend him off instead but miss. And I’m wide open.

The pay off

She changed the spelling of her name so it was hardly a name at all. X-oe; how the hell did anyone pronounce that. Drawing on her loyal art school friends she developed signature projects; animations, improvisations she performed at clubs and parties, spoken word rants, flash installations and endless images. Then she hit social media hard. She established a profile; X-oe, anti-art assassin, whatever that was, because it was just a bit of spin she concocted one morning in the midst of a vodka and pills hangover.

The art-suckers bought it. She traded in her old friends for a more influential bunch. Momentum built around her, a reputation that needed form, because anti-art had become more art than art and it was time to cash in. She created a single non-art work, an unlimited edition of unsigned solid cubes that could be recreated endlessly in whatever size, colour or material the non-art collector desired. Business boomed.

X-oe incorporated, skimming an executive salary while finding others to fill the orders of art fans keen to get onboard her non-art wagon. They outdid themselves on size and materials. She went viral. She went global.

The Guggenheim called. The Guggenheim! It was enough to crack even X-oe’s non-art cool. Her time had come.

Transfer it to the office, she called. She took a long breath before lifting the receiver. Yes…Speaking.

We’re acting, a severe voice replied, on behalf of the estate of…

X-oe recalled—but the memory was vague because she’d spent so many hours trolling the internet for exploitable ideas—a manifesto written by some post-dada, beatnik hack.

Chances

The way I figure it I’ll have, if luck is with me, five chances. Tomorrow will be like today and all the days since my capture so my reckoning is sound. My first opportunity will come early, in the crossing. Sometimes my guards are too eager. If I slow they come onto the bridge to jab at me with bayonets. They are vulnerable above the drop.

The second comes when our work party is given its implements for the day. A hoe would be little use but a spade, hammer or pickaxe; only circumstance makes them tools rather than weapons.

The next chance comes at lunchtime. The broth is little more than peelings and salt but at least this new cook brings it to the boil. Sometimes he adds an onion or two or a yam from the forest. He is better than the other, who served it safely tepid. No matter.

Another, of course, is the crossing back to the camp, when the guards are tired from the labour of watching.

But it will be the last chance I take again, when the candles have been snuffed and stiff limbs stretch on stiff bunk boards. That’s when I will act. Dream it again; the brief pleasure of another’s death scream.

Ingest

No good can come engaging fools as fools,

Leave fooling for those few who do it best,

who understand, though fooling eschews rules,

the import of the judgement of the jest.

 

Have all true fools in foolish roles employed,

in wars or sales or screwing lids on jars,

Judge where they’re fit by that they should avoid

such tasks as ill-judged sense of humour bars,

 

For poor fools fancy they’re the kings and queens

they think their daily audience so dead

as not to judge their foolish utterings.

These naïve jesters loose their foolish heads,

then find decapitation gains attention

where foolish fooling barely got a mention.

Realisation suite

At first I cannot stand the

acid on my lips, the sourness

beneath the sweet. Loretta biting down,

peeling back the rind, swallowing, smiling,

then taking another quarter. I know

I’ll end up savouring the taste.

 

Just before the first rockets hit

I listen, through the open bedroom

door, to Juan’s singing, strong, sweet

and vain. I know I couldn’t

care less about him, but not,

yet, that I couldn’t care more.

 

I will wait forever, not because

I’ve romanticised a future for us

but simply because desire holds me,

its hurtful desperation a small price

for stolen moments I might miss

if I let you slip away.

 

I have grown old enough already.

That approaching years mock those past,

yet in my time there’s much

I’ve avoided learning. The secrets of

my lover’s kiss. What to call

the colour of a Jacaranda flower.