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A CURIOUS AND PECULIAR
KIND OF QUEER

 

chapter twenty-one

 



POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

confession from belgrade

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of
omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard

imagepoem

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

TRANSLATIONS

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400
revolutionary maxims

nice men and
suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

ESSAYS & MEMOIRS

a curious and peculiar
kind of queer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

happiness

londons of the mind &
dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

a holy dog and a
dog-headed saint

an albanian ikon

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

diogenes
the dog from sinope

shoplifting

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

combatting normality

fools for nothingness:
atheists & saints

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland


Non-homosensual (and indeed many 'gay') men and women must think me completely freakish not to like women's breasts.

I have no firm (or even sagging) idea why this is so - because I am a woman-respecter, feminist and admirer of my mother and aunt. Neither of them had noticeable breasts, but my grandmother did. My grandmother who hated my left-handedness. Could that be the reason ? Or perhaps some blowsy, big-breasted woman leaned into my cot or pram at a tender age - even before I was brought to Belfast - and scared me, thus making me dislike lipstick or make-up on women ever after - apart from subtle eye-liner and the kind of make-up that women of the Ottoman court might have had - and men in Bollywood films. But my cot theory cannot apply to my dislike of high heels, except as "power-dressing". And it is somewhat contradicted by my liking of roly-poly "mother-figures". I would think that the latter corresponded with the unknown foster-mother I had for a year - and the vampish former remains some kind of interloper.

This comes as even more freakish (if not hypocritical) from a man who had four snakes tattooed in and around his groin, and has worn earrings for decades. (Obviously I don't mind earrings, even very dangly, glittery ones.) My one and only girlfriend had very small breasts and wore no or almost no make-up. My mother hardly ever wore stockings or a hat - which appalled me at the snob-school's ghastly Sports Day when all other mothers (it seemed) wore both and "looked respectable". I never thought of how my mother might have been ashamed of me, one of the least sporty of pupils, an intelligent "maladjusted" child who was intellectually unambitious and bored-lazy to boot.

I am always horrified by women's fashions - whether fur coats or skimpy dresses apparently designed to cause hypothermia. I think of the poor whores on the rue Saint-Denis in Paris, grotesquely made up and wearing almost nothing in the January wind - and I am filled with pity. I want Social Services to give them nice warm clothes and money to live on.

'Gay' men generally seem to like women with lots of make-up and impractical not to say cruel clothing - whether Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqui Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Bea Arthur (thank you, Malcolm, for this little list). "Gay" men like horrible mindless music, and some of them like plastic-looking, Nazi-imitating leather gear. I am in a small minority among the homos, thinking rhinoceroses and sharks much more beautiful than Madonna, and horses much more sexy than almost any human. If only there were more rhinoceroi!

This is even odder when I remember I wanted to be a ballet-dancer at the age of seven, and, because that was impossible, I decided that "I want to be an actor" - a slot on the children's programme of the 1950s on the Northern Ireland BBC. This desire might have been fed by my weekly Elocution Lessons given by a very nice man called Grahame Roberts who (I think) was the husband of the producer of the children's programme, Cicely Matthews.

I have already sung the praises of the BBC, but I have nothing but contempt for what is now called BBC Radio Ulster. I may be mistaken, but I certainly have the feeling (along with the "Catholic Community" that the only audible voices from the impressive Broadcasting House in Belfast were - until the 1970s - Protestant: "A Protestant Radio for a Protestant People", to adapt the slogan of the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1922, "A Protestant State for a Protestant People". But I digress.

I duly auditioned, and was given as tiny a role in some for-children playlet or other as I was later to be given (as Lepidus) in a school production of Julius Caesar. I was so nervous that I could hardly remember my two lines. My voice has always been low, and I used to stammer (hence the elocution lessons). I still stammer sometimes in French, especially when upset or angry. I could never address a crowd, except with the aid of a microphone, and people who are hard of hearing have great difficulty in interpreting my low murmur, which, in the days of Gay Phone Dating (the 1980s), men said was 'sexy'.

As to the pernicious notion of "identity", I, the non-identifying outsider, have never had any need lor desire for it, nor will I ever - except as "DEAD".
I am Irish, born in England and raised in the British part of Ireland. Most of my culture comes from Britain, Europe and Palestine - and more recently, the USA. Only a small part comes from Ireland.
- European, some of my mind-set is African, some is Asian, and some is "primitive".
The Protective Spirit of my house is Marquesan.
- Homosensual, some of my best friends have been touchy-feely women (some of them with quite big breasts) and I tend to avoid the company of men.
As a Whitey, I have always wanted to be black.
As a human, I have more empathy with dogs and donkeys than with other humans.
If I am dissident, I believe in courtesy, generosity, tolerance, openness and changeability of mind...

I suspect that certain palaeolithic "lone wolf" human males bonded more easily with wolves than with other humans - hence the emergence of the much-abused Canis lupus familiaris, or Dog.

Today's blog:

Just think of all the (fake)
blood that has splattered
and gushed and oozed
through the fake world of films -
and none of it menstrual.

Much-tabooed menstrual blood tastes better than many kinds of factory-made jam, but must can be mentioned even less than suicide-as-intelligent-choice. Ireland is a land of suicide, much of it rural and sad. Perhaps there is nowhere that suicide can be joyous.

As an Irishman-by-choice I am not ashamed to say that half a pint of Guinness (which might be a mix of piss, shit and cream) is quite enough for me - because the deliciousness of Guinness (unlike wine) is in it first three or four sips. Thereafter is is merely a means of getting drunk, and neither inebriation nor the places which encourage it have ever appealed to me. (I have never visited and am never likely to visit the "Irish Pub" in the nearby small town of Caussade.) There are exceptions, of course. I recently found an excellent pub in Newcastle, county Down, whose Guinness was dreamy and where Malcolm and I shared a large portion of the traditional French moules & frites - the mussels in a creamy-winey sauce. Chips (frites, French fries) are a rarity in my diet - not because I dislike them, but because I so rarely eat out. Making them in my own home has not been a success. Thus I tend to eat sautéed potatoes which are not the same thing at all because they taste more potatoey - assuming that the potatoes have a taste, which they rarely do in Ireland. I am a fan of French potatoes, especially Roseval and white-skinned varieties with yellow interiors. The Irish seem to eat potatoes only to mop up gravy, so they don't need to have a taste. I eat them neat, with salad and nothing else but a nice light, dry white wine. A basic and delicious vegetarian dish.

When I first had my eyes opened to the homosexual demi-monde, I was shy and hesitant in the cruising-pubs like Therese in Patricia Highsmith's novel Carol, which has a brilliant description of a homosensual wooing. Like Therese I found the verbal side difficult. Few people had the élan to pull my clothes off and start loving me in every which way. Few people could (or were prepared to) talk either about any of the many things which interest me, or about the psychosensual delights ahead. Most 'gay' men are too clogged with expectations to be spontaneous and open. In a way I was lucky not knowing what to expect, and thus so open to suggestion that I ended up having half my forearm up a lovely Turk's backside. (As I write, Malcolm is doing the same to a long-dead pheasant that his neighbour parked at his door. I am not a fan of pheasant.) The few men who encouraged and harvested my shy sensuality tended to be 'alternative, hippyish, psychotropic or entheogen-receptive. They did not find me 'lover-material', but they offered me their generous (always bearded, sometimes long-haired) sensuality, by which I remain gratefully enriched.

"I think sex flows more sluggishly in all of us than we care to believe, especially men care to believe," says Carol in Patricia Highsmith's book. "The first adventures are usually nothing but a satisfying of curiosity, and after that one keeps repeating the same actions, trying to find - what ?" [...] "A friend or a companion or maybe just a sharer. [...] I think people often try to find through sex things that are much easier to find through other ways." Maybe not easier to find, but more findable. Or perhaps we realise that they are not worth seeking, that the game (as in sex) is not worth the emotional candle. Experience or the finding might be entirely due to chance, and if it doesn't arrive easily it might be best not to bother, since the searching might actually preclude or impede the discovery. How many men I have wasted time, money and emotional energy on! Not that they were vampires...

As a homosensual male and a 'self-taught' (that is to say, not college-perverted) painter I am appalled by the celebrated, vampiric, bullying Francis Bacon. With Malcolm I watched an excellent television documentary on his sordid and destructive life. He seems to have been an utterly loathsome man, with a single talent for the grotesque almost entirely based on Picasso's meretricious painting Guernica. Picasso had never been to Guernica, so his pseudo-political painting was a mere doodle on news reports. Bacon had not seen action in the second world war, unlike the great painter-commentator on war, Otto Dix, whose works radiate authenticity. Bacon's grotesqueries (most of them very well composed) are predictable, easily-identifiable - hence very marketable. Galleries dislike painters whose work is unpredictable, as I learned from the Belfast painter Colin Middleton, who (along with Hugh Brody) encouraged me at the beginning of my small output and short career.

Although his bull paintings are pleasing, they are very superficial. There is no "bullness" (tauricity ?) about them. His only painting of a dog (from 1952) similarly has no canicity about it, only a rather silly menace...

...as will be understood by comparing this dog with the sensually pro-canine portraits by the contemporaneous Lucien Freud.

Of course, Bacon (like the wonderfully subtle Rothko) was not painting for cosy homes, but for large, preferably public, spaces. Delacroix and David likewise, with their extravagant and also somewhat meretricious set-pieces such as the magnificent, racist, decoratively-sadistic Death of Sardanapalus in the Louvre. Bacon's sado-maso pictures do have a certain decorativeness (mainly in their repetitious, static composition), but whereas I could have a grisly Dix or Goya in my house, I could not have a Bacon. I would end up destroying it. Both Dix and Goya saw the actual horrors of war; Bacon cleverly fantasised rape, dismemberment, disembowelment and agony, which was then marketed to a frankly-degenerate creamy clientèle of the rich, thick and cruel.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Bacon did not like cuddles or affection. One of his unfortunate lovers committed suicide (famously on a hotel lavatory the day of the opening of Bacon's prestigious exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris) seemingly because his affection was repaid by violence and contempt. It is a pity that the Francis-George relationship had not worked out as the relationship between Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell did. Orton had so much more to offer than Bacon.

Bacon (even less genuinely Irish than I am) claimed he was typically homo in hating to grow old. I, on the other hand, rejoice in it. I am entering the best years of my life. I am finally almost an adult - a "Senior Citizen" proud and happy to be senior, even if I reject citizenship with all the bile than I can spew! Technically speaking, Irish citizenship and French residency suit me very well. Ireland is a constitutionally-neutral country (like Switzerland) which has never had National Service. On the other hand, abortion is still illegal in both parts of the island. France is still a militaristic state, but its quality of life (especially in the very distinct, rural south-west) is very high. Both countries will remain in the European Union as long as it lasts.

* * * * *

Since writing the above (over two months ago) there has been a dramatic change in my life.

After my landlord murdered Malc's and my calm and friendly dog Oscar (some 15 years ago ?) I swore that I would never have another dog and suffer the weeks of separation-misery at his disappearance and demise. That misery was made much worse by the violence of his death.

But, having moved permanently to France (and having Malcolm visit more often) I thought that I should rescue a dog. I resolved to rescue one that was unlikely to be adopted.

One day I saw an SOS on the free online advertisement-site LeBonCoin, and immediately made enquiries about an "unadoptable" and "damaged" Belgian Malinois (Merchelse herder). We met on neutral ground, because in his "box" or stall at the Dog Shelter, he "went mad" when anyone approached. When he saw me he growled and lunged and tried to run away, but I just hunkered and waited. All his front teeth are worn down to stumps from trying to bite through iron bars. After a few minutes he calmed down. And a few minutes later the lovely young woman who was so concerned about him that she put the SOS on the website herself, on her own initiative (how very unFrench!), took us both walking in the field with him on the lead. It was no problem for her to give the lead to me, and so we began to know each other, As (pronounced 'ass', meaning 'ace' as in 'ace of hearts') and I. He even let me rub his head and back.

I had brought Josette, my neighbour, along. She feeds stray cats (which of course are something of a trial to people in the neighbourhood) - to my mind an irresponsible, self-congratulatorily-sentimental practice which encourages the birth of malnourished kittens - and has a beautiful cat of her own, as well as a sweet little Yorkshire bitch. At the beginning of the encounter with As, Josette signalled Non! Non! - but after 20 minutes she was smiling encouragement at us both. As we were leaving, As* hopped into the back seat of the car. We had bonded! Josette and I returned to Caylus via the lovely, little-used road through the Aveyron Gorges, and she gave me her blessing for his adoption.

Next day I went back to the Shelter, signed the forms, and took him home as a beautiful work-in-progress, albeit parasitic. I improved his name to Asterix - which brings a smile to the faces of French people, even as he growls at them in fear, for he is afraid of both corpulent and haggard men, children, and some women.

In the car he simply lies down on the back seat, unlike other dogs I have had, who like to see what is going on outside the vehicle. One even wanted to help me to drive.

I find dogs (especially those I have lived with) more interesting than people. The end result of my literacy is that I prefer books to people. I prefer plants (especially trees) to people. I prefer good ceramics to people. Humans are the only hypocritical animals. They use language as a means of hiding their feelings and intentions - which is why I am something of an Outsider, or - a better word - an Asider.

When Insiders (so very rarely) look out, they see little more than their own reflections.


I will not even half-finish this memoir because I am questioning why I even started it. I am a pedestrian rather than a good writer and I am allergic to publishers and their industry. I wonder why people - from the alleged Moses to the actual Dostoyevsky - put so much effort into merely supplying a market. It is indeed a pity that some poor, gifted - even visionary - fools feel they have to waste their lives writing in order for us degenerates to have sufficient reading material - and fuel the literacy industry. Authoring is yet another - and tedious - form of self-oppression.

Better to read the excellent work of others than write something mediocre. In any case, what mumblings I want to produce are better expressed in my daily and very brief blogs. Appreciation is an even greater - and more modest - art than production.

I have a stack of small diaries beside me as I write this, with accounts of bizarre meetings, incidents and partings in the search for someone to relate to, sharingly, by pathetic sexualised routes. My moments of sensual joy have been few and fleeting. My disappointments have been many and occasionally tinged with bitterness.

September 1999:

# Beautiful day. Having expected Paul to arrive at 2, I ate a hash-cake at 1. At 4 I got a call from him asking to be picked up some 30 miles away. His car had broken down again.
Had some terrific cuddles - amazingly transcendental and flowy. I was very stoned on the strong hash-cake and collapsed into his wonderfully-welcoming arms after cooking (and eating) dinner. Our encounters are overwhelming.
Drove next morning into Downpatrick where we met Malcolm and Oscar [our shared lurcher] and had a lovely walk together. Took Paul home.

# (10 days later) Continuing silence from Paul, despite my messages on his answering-machine. The cuddles are wonderful, but his unreliability freaks me out.
# (one month later) To Strangford in morning. [The little port at the mouth of the long, shallow fjord of Strangford Lough is mentioned by Boccaccio.] Phonecall from Paul in afternoon.
# (another week later) Paul failed to turn up for dinner.

He did not get in touch again until June 2000, when I (old enough to be his father, and almost as forgiving as a dog) brought him to my house for champagne, psilocybe mushrooms - and transcendental cuddles. Some 10 days later he actually arrived in time for dinner and more squirty cuddles.
Two weeks after that we had another wonderful time after champagne and mushrooms (and drinking each other's delicious piss: mushrooms are not metabolised, so one can ingest them again). After splendid mutual beard-pulling (with simultaneous scrotum-pulling) and wrestly, squirty cuddles, we licked chilled gooseberry fool off each other's willy. Then more expressions and squirts of sensual love, which seemed to my naive, romantic imagination powerfully chthonic, but, in his case, alas! in his case, were only "sex-deep". He was one of the few men whom I really liked to sleep beside. For me, erotic (as opposed to hypocaustic) activity is emotional rather than mechanical.

Occasionally I would have the privilege of sleeping also with his witty little firework of a dog, called Streak, who liked to spend the night under the duvet at Paul's feet! Paul was unusually good with dogs, and our Oscar adored him.

'Gay' men seem to me to be either mind-numbingly conventional or narcissistic shit-heads - or both. Unfortunately Paul turned out to be the latter.


Paul and Malcolm, whose ourobolos-lizard tattoo I designed.

Our erratic encounters continued, involving several no-shows and long periods of incommunicado on his part. Paul was one of those millions of men who don't realise that 'love' is more than a strong emotion: it is an active and generous commitment. After his death by choking I learned that these mostly were periods devoted to his toxic and scumbag family, with occasional dalliances with other, lesser men. I was going through long bouts of what might have been Chronic (or maybe Chthonic ?) Fatigue Syndrome with 'moderate' depression, interspersed with short 'high' periods. Now I see myself as mildly Aspergerish and mildly bipolar - and in excellent health. I have generally treated 'sex' as an emotional process of excavation rather than a mechanical act of relief. I have, with some success nevertheless, devoted my life to protecting myself from my culture - and now, finally, I have managed to exile myself from the slurry-green isle on which I spent most of my life.

No sexual encounters were recorded for 2001, the last pocket-diary that I wrote in - whose final entries were
11th September: USA Gets taste of its own medicine.
13th September: Sixty today. How the hell have I managed to live so long ?

No entries after Oct. 8, and no more pocket diaries acquired.

I did in fact find a partner by the inefficient sexualised route. We have had "ups and downs" for 25 years. Our connection was not sexual, but 'mystic', and the sexual element faded rather rapidly because of our different personalities and Malcolm's passive timidity. For a while I looked for a bearded improvement, but my search became gradually less and less rewarding, and Malcolm and I found that we had a great deal to share - Oscar the lurcher who taught us so much, music, food, great cinema, travels - and France, which Malcolm loves. After 25 years I have not got tired of his company (whereas half an hour with anyone else is quite enough) - and I still find him innocently beautiful.


Oscar and Malcolm

When he is with me in France, our mornings are blessed by Asterix padding off to his room to herd him into my bed, so that he can lie on top of both of us and play his favourite bite-wrestling game, while Malcolm cups my balls comfortingly in his hand. I love Asterix's smell, and like to bury my nose in his fur. I have more empathy with dogs than with humans, because, after all, humans have their much-vaunted 'intelligence' to deal with life, and dogs do not - yet dogs cope with whatever situation they are in far far better than humans. In fact, I have always felt inferior in elegance and integrity to every one of the dogs I had the privilege to sustain. Asterix was 5 years on his own 'guarding' an empty warehouse at night, kept in a cage during the daytime, irregularly fed and beaten - yet (apart from his teeth) he is undamaged, gentle, cuddly, funny, beautiful - and his bad reaction to confrontation or approach by certain kinds of human whom he finds threatening is only to be expected, and will diminish in time.

Malcolm also became a Nurture-in-progress after we first met. Even now, his dyspraxia has not yet allowed him to organise dishwashing so that the cleanest items (such as glasses, cutlery and plates pre-cleaned by Asterix) are washed first, and the most intransigent ones last. But over the years he has slowly recovered from his damaging childhood, and, after I started this memoir, still wrapped up in himself, he began to write his own memoir: literary therapy for him, as this memoir is not to me. I hate that I am trapped by words which not only govern my thinking, my consciousness, but create it. The truest freedom is, surely, freedom from language.

I stopped painting as the fatigue took greater hold, and as I realised that some stones or bits of bark are at least as beautiful as any painting I could do - but I helped Malcolm with his when he started - at the age of 50. More recently I have stopped writing and translating poems, except for the occasional haiku and blog-poem - though I have done some revision of my poetry pages on this site. Recently, I even entered a poetry competition with a 450-line poem on being and nothingness. Given the current state of poetry (barely literate, anti-intellectual, anti-metaphysical) it hasn't a chance.

I will end by quoting the Oglala Lakota thinker, Russell Means, as he addressed an audience of thousands on the irrelevance of Marxism to American Indians:


"The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing.
The process itself epitomizes the European concept of "legitimate" thinking:
that what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken."

.

 

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