Everywhere I Turn
My sister falls out of a tree
and cracks her skulls open
and the ravens swoop down and mix
omelettes out of her spilled brains
and cast their dark shadows over her split face.
My brothers form an orderly
queue to take turns putting their heads in the fire.
They take off their aprons
and their shoes and they jump in
leaving me standing here
warming my hands by the grate.
Everywhere I turn everywhere I turn.
I turn and my parent’s guts are
eaten by cancer and their flesh is loose
and without control and I am without
My cousins hang from every streetlamp
like Christmas decorations and my aunts
and my uncles are riddled with wounds
that burst open like red lilies in bloom.
I sweep up the spare parts
we don’t use anymore into a dustpan
and throw them into the bin.
Later I rifle through the waste
My grandparents knew it would happen.
They saw it on the horizon approaching.
Charles Baudelaire’s Spaceship
I was in the kitchen whipping cream to put on some strawberries so I could entice my girlfriend away from the X-Box when I heard the doorbell ring. I wiped my hands on my apron and went out to the hall, still holding the bowl of cream, and opened the door. Charles Baudelaire was standing there: clean-shaven and dapper, sporting a cravat, a well-cut suit and cradling a luscious bouquet of flowers in his arms.
‘Charles Baudelaire!’ I cried out in surprise.
‘It is I,’ he said.*
‘I love your shit,’ I said excitedly.
‘I love your shit,’ he said.
I cried a few grateful tears into the bowl of cream I was holding.
‘I brought these for you,’ he said timidly presenting me the bouquet he was carrying.
‘Janey Mac, thanks,’ I said, shoving the bowl of cream into his arms and taking the bouquet from him.
‘These are wonderful,’ I said appreciatively, my eyes glimmering in wonder like a child’s.
‘Let me put them in the kitchen,’ I said, walking back into the kitchen.
I tossed the bouquet into the sink and went into the sitting room and told my girlfriend Charles Baudelaire was at the door.
‘Cool,’ she said, her eyes still glued to the screen.
I went back out to the hall where Baudelaire was still standing, holding the bowl of cream.
‘So Charles,’ I said, rubbing my hands together. ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’
‘I was wondering if you’d like to come for a drive with me?’
‘I’d love to,’ I answered happily. ‘Where are we going?’
‘Deep into time and space,’ he answered. ‘I’m looking for the edge of the universe.’
‘Have you a spaceship?’
‘Yeah, it’s out the back, he said pointing towards the car park.
‘Ok,’ I said, stroking my chin. ‘That sounds pretty cool. I’ll come along.’
‘What will I do with this,’ he asked, nodding his head towards the bowl of cream.
‘Here, give it to me,’ I said.
I took the bowl from him and placed it on the floor and then I untied my soiled apron and threw it on the coat-rack.
‘Let me get my coat,’ I said to him.
He nodded and shuffled awkwardly around, not really knowing what to do while he waited.
‘It’s in the sitting room,’ I explained, as I walked away again.
In the sitting room, I buttoned up my coat and explained to my girlfriend that I was going out with Charles Baudelaire for the night in his spaceship to find the edge of the universe and that I’d be back later on.
‘Cool,’ she said, turning up the volume on the television.
I said goodbye and turned to leave, when she called me back.
‘Yes?’ I said.
‘Make sure you were a seatbelt,’ she said, leaning over to kiss me on the cheek.
I laughed and gave her a hug and then left.
Charles Baudelaire led me out to the car park where his spaceship was docked.
‘Nice spaceship,’ I said.
‘It’s a pretty standard model,’ he shrugged.
We boarded the ship and when we were safely seated he pressed a big red button the size of my head and we took off in a jet of white fire and soared out of the stratosphere.
‘How do you get inspiration for your poetry?’ I asked as we flew past the moon; in such close proximity that I could make out the small American flag in a massive crater.
‘I read a lot,’ he said, taking a Zippo from his breast pocket and lighting a cigarette, ‘and then I go to a small, quiet room and talk to a prostitute for a while and write down what she says and then I put her words in rhyming form and put it into some acceptable poetic structure.’
‘Cool,’ I nodded thoughtfully.
‘It’s hard work,’ he said, taking a drag off his cigarette. ‘You know Le voyage?’
‘Do I?’ I laughed. ‘It’s a serious beast of a poem.’
‘Yeah well I wrote that after spending five days in an opium den with a syphilitic whore called Maud. She was a lot of fun. She got very sad though sometimes.’
‘I get sad too sometimes,’ I said quietly.
Baudelaire threw his cigarette on the floor and stubbed it out with his shoes and then put both hands on the steering wheel.
‘We’ve left the solar system,’ he said.
I looked at Pluto suspiciously and then asked if Baudelaire had a pen and paper on board. He pointed with his thumb to a drawer. I found a notepad and sat in the cockpit and wrote a poem for several hours that went like this:
‘That’s pretty good,’ Baudelaire commented when he finally saw it, not really looking at the page.
‘What’s it about?’
‘Death and sadness,’ I answered, still looking at the page.
‘Good solid topics,’ Baudelaire nodded. ‘Would you like a cigarette?’
‘No, I’m fine. Thanks.’
By now we were so deep into the universe that everything was dark and all the molecules were spaced out pretty widely and there wasn’t really much going on because there wasn’t much matter or many particles floating about. Baudelaire dipped the headlights.
‘We haven’t passed any abysses,’ Baudelaire said, wonderingly. ‘And we haven’t started contracted or expanding yet.’
‘I’m pretty hungry,’ I said, thinking of the strawberries I had foolishly left uncovered in the kitchen.
Baudelaire looked at me curiously. Then he shifted the gear stick and reversed and took a right.
‘I think we took a wrong turn,’ he explained.
‘Do you think there’s any possibility of us going back in time if we cross the final frontier of space?’ I asked.
‘Nah,’ Baudelaire said dismissively.
I looked out the porthole and saw a black hole eating time and space and matter.
‘I’m actually pretty hungry too,’ Baudelaire said, stroking his belly.
‘Take another right,’ I said warningly and Baudelaire swung to the right and we avoided getting pulled into an infinite vacuum.
I looked out the porthole and started thinking of strawberries in cream when Baudelaire shouted out:
I looked out the front window and saw a kaleidoscopic range of colours turning everything, including myself, blue then yellow then green then red.
A purple Baudelaire parked the pink spaceship and then orange everything went very green and then black and we stared into, and became, infinite nothingness.
‘What’s out there?’ my voice said from nowhere.
The nothingness that used to be Baudelaire shrugged and said:
‘White noise, death, lost Bob Dylan bootleg tapes, dead babies, God, I don’t know. Victor Hugo maybe: that cunt.’
‘This is all very disappointing,’ I didn’t say, because I was nothing. ‘I could be covering my naked girlfriend in strawberries and eating them off her belly.’
‘Sorry,’ said Baudelaire’s energy as he put the spaceship into reverse.
‘What do they mean when they say the abyss stares back, Charles?’ I asked as I turned into a single electron, flinging myself around what was left of the universe at a similar speed to light.
‘I don’t really know. It never happened before and now I don’t really know what to make of it all,’ the French man who used to be French and who used to be a man said as he became pure magnetised mercury.
‘If we’re nothingness, why do we keep changing form and keep speaking?’ I you he she it we you (pl.) they nothing everything asked.
‘Probably just to pass the time,’ ’ I you he she it Baudelaire Hitler Jesus Homer EvERYOnE elephant pills quark quark we were you (pl.) they nothing were nothing we were nothing were everything replied.
‘*&^£$(%”)!)$),” we laughed.
‘●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●▼♀’ he added.
‘Life and death have no meaning here. They are not applicable terms,’ I scolded.
‘0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001’ he said angrily.
‘Whatever,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘I’ll take that cigarette now if you’re offering.’
‘We’re out of petrol,’ nobody said, checking the ignition.
‘Are you serious?’ I sighed in an echo that rebounded for all eternity.
‘Just kidding,’ a cat answered as it became pure energy shaped like the number 8.
And then one trillionth of a millisecond before infinite had completed itself we managed to reverse the ship into the universe and I could see a molecule floating seven thousand light years away.
‘We’re home!’ I shouted and gave Baudelaire a big hug. He pushed me off violently, disgruntled.
‘You said some pretty nasty things back there to me in nothingness,’ he spat.
‘It doesn’t actually count,’ I said defensively, ‘because there was no I or you and no division between us because we were both the same thing which was nothing and therefore I can’t have insulted whatever it is that the thing is that you claim you are now.’
And then I added quickly:
‘And you’ve been dead for at least a century in earth time.’
‘Ok,’ Baudelaire said angrily, lighting his first cigarette since almost forever, ‘but I still think your poem is shit.’
‘Uncalled for,’ I said huffily as I looked out the window in a sulk. ‘That is really uncalled for.’
We made our way back to the solar system in silence and I felt a little sad and disappointed, even a little empty maybe, and then I started to cry.
‘You’re not getting any comfort here,’ Baudelaire said. ‘Those tactics don’t work with me. You won’t make me feel guilty.’
‘Shut up, Charles!’ I shouted. ‘I always get cranky when I’m hungry. It has nothing to do with you.’
Baudelaire stared at the steering wheel and said coldly:
‘I can’t believe you said I was dead. Do you know how offensive that is?’
‘Oh come on!’ I said, raising my arms in disbelief. ‘You are dead!’
‘Well, so are you,’ he shouted.
I sighed at his immaturity and looked out the window. We were entering the solar system, though by now it had changed co-ordinates by some hundred billion trillion kilometres since we were last in it.
‘This has been a very disappointing journey,’ I said.
‘If you think this is bad, wait until you see how it ends.’
‘How does it end?’ I asked.
‘You die,’ Baudelaire said. ‘Most voyages end like that.’
‘Only one voyage ends like that,’ I replied smugly.
‘And what voyage would that be?’ he asked as we landed in the car park outside my house.
‘I don’t know, cause I’m not dead yet,’ I laughingly gloated in his face.
‘Distasteful,’ Baudelaire said.
‘But still breathing,’ I added as I hopped out of the spaceship.
‘What time do you want me to pick you up tomorrow?’ Baudelaire asked as he closed the automatic hatch behind me.
‘I’m making quiche tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll have time.’
‘Is it the girlfriend?’ Baudelaire asked, lifting an eyebrow.
I shrugged as he waved at me and the hatch closed firmly.
Then I went home.
* Throughout the following text I have translated my conversations with Baudelaire from the original French into the English; trying to stay true to Thomas De Quincey’s maxim that one must catch the ‘spirite and soule’ of the speaker in question. French is a language that both I and Baudelaire speak fluently, albeit that French girls are continually more enticed to flirt with me than Baudelaire when we they see us in public conversing, probably due to the fact that I speak with a rugged Irish accent whereas Baudelaire speaks with a very slight lisp and a pronounced Parisian accent. He is also not as forthcoming in the presence of young ladies. If the reader is interested in a more exact version of the events portrayed and the conversations related in this short work, a cheap paperback edition is available in the original French from HYPERLINK “http://www.editions.flammarion.com” www.editions.flammarion.com under the title Charles Baudelaire et l’irlandais, within which this piece can be found on page 94 in the 2012 edition.