22nd October 2017 I usually like big fat men. If I was gay perhaps I would bother big fat men. My Dad was fat. It suited him. His parents owned a corner shop. ‘They gave him whole cream cakes,‘ my mother would say, a grimace making her wrinkles squeak in the crush. My mother weighed six stone and most of that was unwanted memories.
This poem-song thingy is all about a thin man marvelling at a big fat one. The painting probably is too. The poem was started in the middle Eighties. The painting is from halfway back to then. The photograph from not long after: that wall is now not green.
And if you have always wanted to see my radiators: here is some of one.
Look at the fat man eating his tea from a big pan, flat on one knee; look at his fat hand feeding him peas, potatoes and spam. He doesn’t see me. In his deep shade I fade as the red sun smoulders on the dimpled boulders of his head and shoulders.
O! Such a show: he’s eating chips. A pearl of slow grease drips from his lips onto that torso and lazily slips, to tremble and glow on the brink of a hip. He lifts his cup, up and up, to quaff more beer: far off, down here, I shout out, ‘cheers!’
That’s the last of the jam, and there’s nothing to sup: his careless hands relinquish his cup. All that I am could fit in that cup. Hands on his hams, and he’s standing up. Suppose I fell into the well of his hot, dark, long, strong-smelling belly-button, soft at the bottom.
I once met a man who saw him sneeze. He said the fat man started to wheeze like a broken brass band, to bob and to heave; his innards began to struggle and seethe, boiling within his tight skin: the sneeze hurled the man until he was slammed back into a tram.
He blinks and blows, standing at last: I stand below his best-ever arse. If he took me in tow, I’d live on grass to buy him gâteaux, pâté de fois gras and figs. I’m a twig in a wig. All of the worth of this poor earth is in his girth.
My tears flow; my face is slime: If only he’d slowly incline his spine, and let me know that he wouldn’t mind if I held a toe; That would leave nine. ‘You have so much: may I touch your smallest toe, not all of a row? That done, I’d go.’
21st July 2015 My brother Pin was concerned that I was always in that dirty house and wooden room on my own. This poem recalls the conversation.The parts directly about the monkey are fairly accurate.
Monkey’s not in the Shed
The last song was not true; I have been singing lies to you. You have been misled: there was no monkey, merely a shed. This is what really happened.
My brother came to see me. He said, ‘You’re so slow, boring: I worry, my brother. You’re sullen, bored. not the sporty sort of fellow who taught me all I know about fun and duty. I’m worried, and so’s Mother. You’re just not the same chap: don’t you ever leave the flat? You really need new scenery. We think some far off country. Me and you! Sun, sand and sea would stand us both fine and dandy.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’
‘It’s beautiful, and cheap.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘The fruit is so sweet.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘The girls will make you weep.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘We can lie on the beach and sleep.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘Feel hot sand under our feet.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘It’ll be my treat.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘You can bring your own Shredded Wheat.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘We can hire a Jeep.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ ‘We can watch strange animals leap across picturesque streets in a haze of mellow heat as we beep the horn of our Jeep.’ ‘No; I have important things to do.’ Then, sweetly, and brightly My brother whispered to me.
‘There’s what?’ ‘A shed.’ ‘What, a shed?’ ‘Yes, a shed.’ ‘And a monkey?’ ‘Yes, a monkey.’ ‘A monkey monkey?’ ‘Yes, a monkey monkey.’ ‘A real monkey monkey?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And the monkey’s in the shed?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And the monkey does your blackheads?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Right, there’s a real monkey, in a shed, that does your blackheads.’ ‘Yes.’
We ate the cheap sweet fruit with the Shredded Wheat I brought. We wept over girls as we lay on the beach among the inexpensive beauty, in the shorts my brother bought. We walked on hot sand, and I got a nice tan, and we watched strange animals leap across picturesque streets in a haze of mellow heat as we beeped the horn of our Jeep. Every day, it was a lot of fun. Every day, I asked, ‘Can I see the monkey now?’
‘Monkey?’ ‘Yes, monkey.’ ‘What monkey?’ ‘The monkey monkey. The monkey in the shed.’ ‘In the shed?’ ‘In the shed.’ ‘Shed?’ ‘Shed. Shed. Shed.’ ‘Monkey?’ ‘Yes, the monkey in the shed. That does your blackheads. That every day I ask to go and see, and you always say, “some other day.” That monkey.’ ‘O, right. That monkey.’
‘So that’s the shed.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘The shed with the monkey in it.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘That does your blackheads?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I’m so happy.’ ‘Right, I’ll wait outside.’ ‘Aren’t you coming in?’ ‘No. It’s alright.’
‘There’s no monkey.’
‘It must be out.’
I enjoyed that holiday with my brother long after it was over. However I continued to regret that lack of a blackhead-pinging monkey. Luckily, art can make the never-happened a momentous occurrence for ever. I set to and after a fortnight of spooning salt into tea and forgetting to open the doors of rooms I was walking into, I had this happier poem. Towards the end of the first verse when reading it, and even sooner when singing it, I can usually feel the earnest beast sifting the hair off my back, the hot blows of breath, those certain finger‘s grip.
Monkey’s in the Shed
I work hard to make a sort of lard from sweat and dirt inside my shirt. This rich grease crawls in each new crease, each old crack of my neck and back. By morning, amazing spawning! Monkey says, ‘Sit down,’ wraps his legs around my waist: I brace.
Blackheads in their holes, jumping out like tadpoles! The light is brown; black flies fly round. Wet heat rots; Monkey squats. I take off my shirt: Monkey goes to work, puckers his lips, grips me so softly; Monkey, keen as mustard, kind as custard, empties my back until my fat is slack.
Monkey’s in the shed! Monkey does your blackheads!
I returned to Thailand and also visited Laos and Cambodia. I was pleased by how very many shops, particularly those in country towns, had hand-painted signs.
In a small town in Cambodia, I asked a young chap who had introduced himself to me to and was eager for employment to take me to a sign-making shop and request the painting of a sign to place on a shop I owned in which monkeys removed people‘s blackheads. I did not not give him any other information. The sign painter, a cheerful and respectable, solid fellow of about fifty, looked at me and my companion as if he might not have fully grasped my requirements; I provided a quick imitation of a monkey attending to a client in my shop. The sign writer nodded affably and with comprehension.
Monkey does your Blackheads
This is the sign I was cheerfully and proudly shown a day or two later. I responded as cheerfully with the rest of the cash. I think I may have paid ten dollars in all. The chap being de-blackheaded looks a little like me and a little like his painter. The shorts are mine, and the back-hairs certainly suggest mine – surprisingly too, as I had not removed my shirt for my enactment of the purpose of my shop. I think the next sign-painting shop I visited was in Pnom Pen, Cambodia‘s capital. There, myself and another young chap who had suggested this shop and offered to translate for me, was greeted by a smart and confident youth who, with his long and cared-for hair and tight denim, obviously claimed kinship with the South-Eastern Asian Metal I had been hearing just perhaps a little too much of. He too was requested to provide a sign for a shop in which monkeys removed people‘s blackheads. He smiled nicely then asked for an extra piece of information: “Did the monkey staff extract blackheads from ladies?” I said they did and he looked delighted. Here is his remarkable response.