In the land of ANDROPHAGOI.        (Man-eaters)

Head under feet.

Hand on heart.

Would you want to eat up your loved one?

Fed acrobatic lies that defy the eye to what could I turn?


Was it because I was hemmed in by such a press gawping in front of the two Goya maja pictures that my eyes were tugged sideways over their heads to see a worm nailed to the cross. I was as surprised as you when I later found it illustrated in an alchemical book although the snake in that picture was nailed the other way across the cross & rather limp.

I started to shove my way through the crush towards Golgotha. To rise. To begin. And in the triangle of my wake appeared a young woman following me with upraised hands. I stopped. Stooped as if to receive her blessing. The long fingers of her left hand tangled into my hair. I saw the anguish flooding her eyes.

Rosine butted in, "Sorry to break the flow, but doesn't it go . . . And the mocking lips twist into a forced serenity. Not wanting to inform him of her desire." She cocked her head sagely. "But hardly able to contain . . .oh . . .you can finish it."

"No. You carry on," He said grimly, "While I juggle the time. Put the reefs in to keep everyone happy, otherwise because of the slapdash way you go about, it means some people are going to meet who should not. And others are going to see things they don't like. Although you seem to think you know the story."

"And then she struck?" Rosine asked, wide-eyed, "Rather early for the murder or had you a rape in mind?"

"Don't forever contradict & twist & turn what I'm talking about. Belittling it before you hear the good bit." To put her down I could write here that Rosine snorted or did something of that kind for effect but she didn't. "I saw this scene while in Madrid it's not going in a book." A lie they both thought. "I never get a chance to reach the end & justify a little episode of dreaming."

"Exaggeration." Countered Rosine, "Effortlessly produced. It needs questioning."

"If you're looking for authenticity allow some self-esteem to creep in."

He thought 'now she'll take the snake vision for a lie, but that was true.'

"It sounds just like an illustration in a comic strip. Did she have the appearance of a grown-up toy doll with her pent up emotion etched into the vacant, or was it vapid, look on her face? And why is it just the one state, her physical desire, that you seemed to recognise so easily? When you want to." Said Rosine contemptuously.

"I did?"

"I think you missed it completely." Rosine bitterly added.

"Who says so? You just said I got it."

"That was caught in the wonderful soft brushing of the body colours . . . not by you."

"Too soft a touch."

"Of your or her hand? Yours." Rosine prompted.

" . . . of the slick paint."

"She was so easy to spot? Waiting with a label hanging round her neck?" Rosine taunted. "In front of that sign-post you saw."

"The worm." He stopped. He'd caught on, "was it a vision conjured up to thwart this angel planning my fall from grace?" He wondered. "A warning?" (Take heed, looking back).

" A Self-portrait?"

The worm was a vertical slimy sinuous body. An undulating greeny grey six-foot slug of hatred that shone as though it had licked itself to slide up the cross.

"Hideous. What kept the worm up on the cross for that instant? Was it the Saviour's out thrown arms?"

"No. He'd gone. They looked clumsy anyway as if the artist had been painting with lead piping & would have broken if they moved."

"Or her arms stretching to touch your head & pull it into an embrace as she huskily whispered my name." Rosine continued, "That's were you got it, isn't it?"

Her fingernails bit into the soft flesh at the nape of my neck. As the serpent vanished & the tortured man swam back into focus she asked. "Are we going to get out of here? It's a Hell of a place."

"To do what?"

"Put the worm up."

Later she certainly seemed to fly through the Chinese screen, star enchanted, & resolutely leaned into the first kiss of the day with an open mouth. This was the moment. But it didn't belong to me. Something might be going to happen if I could get to it without sifting through a pile of illusions to try & secure the story, but this moment of acquisition when I could deftly add the necessary touch of fantasy to plump out the bare facts was lost. She had gone before I could hold her. It's never enough to gently place both your hands either side of the rib cage & feel for an instant the warm curves of her breasts on the heel of each thumb & plant a delicate kiss on one lip of an open mouth. I know at that moment I should have slipped my right hand to the small of her back & eased myself over the withholding thoughts & past the uneasy barrier & not allowed my fingers to slide off from the careful grasp.

"You didn't. And that's not the first time." Rosine said scornfully. "Remember I've seen you in action."

And as she arched her back out of the embrace her teeth bared having sensed rejection in the slight stiffness seizing his arms; so again the insubstantiality that always pervaded this act in the glowing light each morning swam into their hearts.

                                       *                                       *                                      *

I swing my shoulder bag onto a bare little table. It is searched; a spade hand flaps every compartment wide. He sees nothing. I place the plastic carrier bulging with a large earthenware pot next to it. He ignores that: leaves it to the machine, which scans the pot as empty. The monkey wrench versus the silicon chip.

                                     *                                         *                                      *

I did whistle in the mornings as she came through the gap in the screen holding a voluminous flannel nightdress tightly around her thin body. Don't hold your piss while waiting for the Himalaya of seductions, I would need to compress all my adventures into one to get even a foothold on the slope. Fantasy is inextricably & unavoidably bound up in the unending echoes of memory. It is made potent but tainted by imagination. With this amalgam I could perhaps be able to sublimely drive home the point that for the recollection of desires to be spontaneous they would also have to be miraculous. So as I whistled a miracle appeared, a blank shape of a person to fill with imaginative doodles. What might have been or was.

"Yes." Rosine threw in, "After trying to get to know you I can see why you want to obliterate the real people with fancy scribbles. They would want to know how you got to the Angel & what happened on the way to delay you, if you were. They are bony, angular, talk back, work underground, have sharp contrasting expressions & fall apart, toss the useful aside triumphantly & nurture the useless gladly with a surfeit of care & are clever."

"Well fuck you too." He snarled back. "And thank fuck it was a picture book I was trying to make & not some heavy tome that you bury your nose in or one of your dissenting tracts full of big words meaning to make me worry or feel inadequate or worse, worthless. I went straight there. I told you."

                            *                                   *                                 *

I turned the corner with Astarte. Before us lay a short tunnel arched over with corrugated iron its entire surface saturated by weirdly shaped graffiti signatures as if all the emotional disturbance of the inhabitants of the surrounding blocks had been soaked into these jagged signs. This blaze of hostility linked the barren walk to the grim steps leading out of a yard we had cut through, giving on to a bomb-site.

Innocently horsing about, no where to go, we were taking our time. To my complete surprise, in the shelter of this derelict tunnel Astarte slipped out of her jacket dropped it at my feet & started to pull her sweater over her head. As it was rucked up by the violence of her action she unclipped her bra, which dangled loose on her shoulders as she bent forward to free her head & out spilled a number of screwed up paper pads.

At the same time as Astarte threw out her arms to pull me close, with her head turned to one side, I enveloped her with my coat & it was while in this rough embrace that I realized she was oblivious to my presence.

She would not move.

I fled the spot.