Needles & Tears, i
To finish, here’s Elvis Costello –
needles and tears
the only bright sparks of life
below rotting skylines
crime trampled so thin
it learns to grin like an x-ray
he rents a stool
where the cheap signals are loud
waiting hunched, bewildered
nothing is so tactful
as a stalker’s tactful hate
on stage she shows
a blonde aura of solemn marble,
a glazed closeness
lonely masks are hung up
she whispers to non-entities
their blood squirms –
her heart has small hands, clutching
he sees bloody particles
of the moon and howling beds
fuelled full of goodbyes,
all love tastes of questions –
he sees no remedy
he stands with the scattered rhythms
of a dying man’s heels
lurching from the bar
he greets the carcass of the night
under creeping stars
shadows excuse excuses
where night’s coiled to a cold trap
collar turned up,
her breath makes cryptic ghosts
as winter kissed her mouth
she whistles, unsuspecting
though stray dogs hear his fists clench
in puddles and piss
in sour struggles, they meet –
like the last dregs of sex
passers-by pass them by
in the trivial night
then look askance
where roses of powder-burns
draw circusing flies
This poem was written for Carpe Diem Ghost Writer #36, Haiku Noir, in which Jen of Blog It Or Lose It asked us to write a “haiku noir”, inspired by Raymond Chandler. This is another great prompt hosted by Chèvrefeuille at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai and all of the poems in the link-up can be read here. Although I wrote this as a direct response to the prompt I haven’t added it to the link-up since, having got carried away, I realise I went in a slightly different direction to “haiku that explores the darker parts of nature – nature at the dirty edges of humanity.” Ah well, you gotta go where the inspiration takes you, right 🙂
Nicotine’s tarry welcome slipped down my throat and made the world a better place. Briefly. I needed it. I breathed fast and tried to calm my nerves. This case spiralled out of control so long ago that I forgot what having control even looked like. I only knew that dead bodies had started stacking up all around me, uncomfortably close. I never was a people person. I always needed my own space. And this was doubly true when all the people crowding round me were violently dead.
“Death is for amateurs,” I muttered between deep, hurried drags on the smooth Virginia tobacco. Then I got back to ransacking the place, as quietly as I could.
I fumbled through the dark with just a feeble torch to guide me, its light shaking. There was still that trembling in my hands and my breathing still came in quick, shallow gasps. But breaking and entering always did disagree with me. All the sneaking around got tired real quick. It was too apologetic for my taste. I preferred a more direct confrontation, given the choice, even if it had got me a few more dents in the back of my head than I’d have liked over the years. That big stubborn ol’ head of mine could take its share of abuse and still pick itself up to lean on the nearest bar before closing time, nine times out of ten. But, like I say, this case had changed the rules some – bullet-ridden bodies were a different proposition to dent-ridden heads. So, some sneaking was in order.
The doctor’s office was airless and clammy from being locked up so tight. The bars across the windows and the bolts across the door made a little zoo for all his patient’s wild secrets – all the dirty secrets, all the dangerous secrets, and the secrets that had a bit of both.
A doctor like this one costs a fortune, not because of his skill with a scalpel or for the pretty bows he can tie in a bandage. No, the real skill he learned at medical school was how to keep his educated mouth shut. The right kind of people (or the wrong kind of people) paid a lot for that kind of bedside manner.
I felt my skin crawl. Ah well. Once I cracked this case I’d quit this racket for good, quicker than bribes lose themselves in a senator’s pocket. Ah-huh the reward would be vast if I pulled it off – I’d buy an expensive big ol’ beach house and an expensive little blonde to go with it. Well, a house like that needs the proper accessories, am I right?
In my line of work I knew a fresh start is the wisest investment you can make. So, I prised open the filing cabinet I needed, held the torch steady, as I rummaged. I didn’t get far. There, in pride of place, I saw my own medical file staring back at me. I didn’t know how they got hold of it, or why. Maybe they thought they’d try blackmailing me with some seedy secrets of my own? I only wish I had any secrets worth the trouble.
Out of curiosity, I flicked open the file and found myself scanning the page of the last medical exam I shivered my way through, barely a fortnight ago – “Emphysema,” it read; “advanced, inoperable.” They didn’t need to blackmail me at all. I was finished.
This short story was written in response to the latest TipsyLit writing prompt: For this week’s prompt, your character must face a new beginning that is both the result of loss and new possibility. Hmm it turns out that when I wrote the story I only half-remembered what the prompt had said. Ah well, sod it. All of the stories written for the prompt can be read by clicking on the image below.