Death and Decay at Café Brecht

for Eddie Woods

Damn, what a night. First you—having a cigarette before getting on your bike. Then pedaling with the speed of a floating tar. I knew I was in the need of a tempo adjustment. But I didn’t know it was that bad. I should have known better though when I saw it from afar: couple of old hobos in front of Brecht having a cigarette. With senile, frozen smiles, worn out rainbow attire and lots of fading literary egomania. Those were the poets. All right, I thought, this might not be pleasant but let’s go in. The inside was a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, titled something like: “50 years on—every cuckoo is a Poet now!” (with “Sheila is a punk rocker now” by The Ramones, in the soundtrack).

They all looked senile and they all were +175. Except for a pretty girl sitting in a corner crocheting—her senility was at least sexually attractive. For the rest all of them might as well have been dead. The piano player was a corpse of an undertaker. Fat lady in the corner by the piano was dead except for an occasional blink of her eyes that scared the shit out of me each time it came. Opposite her a dried out corpse that looked like David Bowie in the climax of The Hunger. Further to the back a hippie who died 30 years ago in Nepal wearing a cloth he bought on a tourist market in Kathmandu. In the middle the Main Hobo with a faded bandana in his dirty mottled wig, grown into an electric car. His chariot’s lights were flashing out of control. The car must have had mind of its own ’cause the Main Hobo was Very Dead, more dead than the rest. Except for an occasional tick of his stiffening body. The rest of those dead hobo-poet-clones were strewn around the retro room of Brecht. They all looked alike. Each rotting and falling apart in his or her own chair or armchair. They belonged to the XIX century doll cabinet from the teen vampire world. They were dusty and crumbling. Each waiting for his or her own ultimate, personal doom. With their eyes on the floor, now and then scanning the room absentmindedly. In search of their long lost consciousness. Waiting for sanctity and immortality of the non-dead.

I froze by the bar instinctively tightening my anus. Dear Eddie, I addressed you in my head, thanks be to God you are not senile or a non-dead. You are not +175 either. You have that youthful blink in your eye that suggests supreme intelligence, horniness and wit. You are not a hobo. You are a Cult Figure. You are a Great Poet, you are Global. So please tell me what the fuck are we doing here? Why must I endure this? Why did you bring me here? But I didn’t get much chance to address you in real life because suddenly and without any warning I stood in front of Her. The Hostess. Her crashing eyes were paired by a protruded bosom designed to knock my teeth out. She was the ultimate matron running her dead class with an iron fist, she was that MILF from the animal porn website, the ultimate pervert’s dream. The runaway college teacher bent on rubber perversions and collections of the non-dead hobo-poet-clones. I bet she wore some rubber under her faded hippie attire.

First she made me feel like I needed to reinvent myself. In front of her I had no past. I was not a poet, I was not part of the scene for the last 20 years, I never organised any poetry events, in fact I never really even made a slightest noise. Secondly she mispronounced my name. About 4 times. Then she scribbled my mispronounced name. Unconcernedly, on a piece of a paper that was equally unconcerned, dirty and torn, placing me somewhere at the end of a lengthy list of mispronounced and misspelled names that only she could decipher. Then she gave me two buttons. Very small buttons. She placed them in my open hand. Then she had a good look at them both. And impulsively changed one into a new one, even smaller. Phew, I was in. I had my new place in the hierarchy of the non-dead. The show could start.

What followed was an endless series of poorly written and poorly read psycho-bubbly fragments of texts composed by surgically removed slices of free-floating brains. Incomprehensible, insignificant, plain and boring. Some were innocent and triggered pity. Some were sadistic and triggered contempt. But none triggered curiosity or a sense of awe. The theme of the night, judging from the parts I could decipher, was ‘me, myself and I: the misunderstood corpse’. But wait a second, this one did exactly the same 15 years ago. And that one: I know him too! And her, oh my god, she didn’t change her tune at all. Slowly but progressively the corpses revealed themselves as characters from the past frequenting Open Poetry at Winston and elsewhere about 10-15 years ago. Singing the same song, delivering the same text, repeating the same line over and over, over the years, centuries, eons. Just older, more dead.

And me squeezed in between with my cup of tea choking on cheap tobacco and mediocre booze. With my book of poetry written in the 90s, same song, same text, same company. Repeating the same line over and over, a gramophone needle stuck in a groove. I searched through my book on and on for an appropriate line, even the shortest piece of text that I wished to deliver but the lines crumbled away. Somehow nothing I have ever written seemed relevant or interesting to me anymore. I went through my book many times over and over again, keeping my hands busy and my head low, darting at the exit, increasingly. Nothing. No inspiration and no strength to just walk out and fuck off, go away.

And so in such a state of mind I was surprised by an endless, mad and hopelessly bizarre monologue of one Cinderella. Everything was ugly about it. Her voice, her oversized ego and the simultaneous total lack of social aptness. Her story, her matter-of-factness and her fucked up make-up. My sense of dignity was totally destroyed. Those around me seemed equally disturbed. I saw someone turn pale and walk out. Someone else became even more drunk. With each word the world around me became more ugly (if that was possible), more lonely and hopeless. I guess that was a moment when I realised that I don’t NEED to read anything there. That I don’t NEED to share. That I can just PULL OUT. Pull my dick out of this tight anus situation and save my jizz, if you don’t mind the analogy.

And so I did. And everything became peaceful again. And nothing mattered anymore. And all the zombies went to sleep. And I just walked out, relieved. And I quietly biked home, I opened a new Word document and I started a new poem. Guess what: it is a poem about a cube of coal floating in the stratosphere. Just an abstract, totally unpretentious picture. Almost classically modern. Visually simple. Not meant to say anything beyond itself. Stripped down to essence. Sober and genuine. Virtuous.

Thank you, Eddie. Thank you for taking me with you to Brecht that night. I guess I needed that shocker.

© Jacek Rajewski
Amsterdam, April 2011