Poem number 26.
I’ve been in a few strange pubs in my time. Some of this ‘prose poem’ is based on a recent experience, but it is much embellished with older memories.
Nightmare 4 – Trapped in a Bad Pub
I’m standing outside, looking up at its grubby edifice. A sign creaks in the wind. A bloke stands by the main door, apparently guarding it. Elderly, but stocky. Old suit jacket, sleeves rolled up. As I approach he shouts incoherently, but stands aside. I enter, and he follows me in. A bored barmaid charges me ten dollars for a pint of bad beer. Distorted seventies pop music rings from speakers on the walls. A man with a straw hat sits near the door. He’s inspecting a list of names. He has a panel cut out of the back of his jacket, revealing a tattoo of Alan Ginsberg on his left shoulder-blade. He looks up, seemingly expecting me to give him my name. I do so, but he mumbles and ignores me. There are a dozen other people in the bar. All seem slightly deranged in some way. They mutter to themselves, and throw an occasional glance at me. All the men, except one, are thin armed, wear old waistcoats with the belt at the back hanging loose. The exception is an overweight middle-aged bloke with long, lank, dyed black hair, parted in the middle, black leather fingerless gloves, leather waistcoat, jeans, check shirt hanging from his waist. He goes to a microphone, recites a poem. The poem is riddled with profanities, but it is a good, powerful poem. It moves me. I clap, but nobody else does. A steady succession of people come through the door, well dressed, carrying presents wrapped in gold or silver paper. Each time, they ask the barmaid a question, and she points them to the other bar. Tells them they should have come in another door. A woman goes to the microphone, recites a ten minute version of “Desolation Row”. Everybody claps, except me. At the bar, a man, yellow toothed, grabs my jacket, breathes beer fumes in my face and says “Are you having fun?”. I nod. The bloke who had been guarding the door grooms his hair every five minutes with a plastic yellow comb. Another man goes to the microphone, shouts into it “Shut up you dickhead” to someone collapsed on the floor. A man in a fluorescent vest, carrying a clipboard, enters, talks to the barmaid, looks around, makes detailed notes. He takes out a mobile phone, dials a number, speaks into it: “Yes, that’s right, about twenty of ‘em. Get over here right away and bring backup”.
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