A CASE OF YOU

“If you want me I’ll be in the bar.”

All these years in the law business and that gag never got old.

“Can the defence and the prosecution approach the bench,” I sighed wearily, feeling like the black female Judge at the end of her tether I’d seen in every movie.

Who are you prosecuting?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“No,” the prosecutor said, sheepishly. “You.”

“And I take it that means you,” I turned to the defence attorney, already looking as lost as a star in the darkness, “are defending…”

“You.”

“Right,” I really needed that drink. “And where is the defendant?”

“Absent your honour, but the defence would like to call this woman we met,” the lawyer’s cheeks were two roses. “She has a mouth like my client. She knows her life and her deeds.”

“What the devil?”

The confusion spread across the courtroom like wine spilled in a bathtub. With no one in the docks, the sketch artist busied herself by doodling cartoon images of countries she had no desire to ever go to.

If the woman braying for blood was clutching at straws, the prosecution calling upon a lonely painter as witness was the last one.

“I live in a box of paints,” he announced.

“What is the charge here?” I thundered.

“Transfusion, your honour.”

I threw question marks at them, wishing they could be daggers.

“You intoxicated without permission.”

“Objection, your honour! This is a straightforward case of love touching mutually consenting souls.”

“You put wine in the veins instead of blood!”

“Surely you see this was a holy act. By an unsung goddess, perhaps…”

I came down hard on the bench like I was brandishing the warhammer of Zillyhoo. No one brings god into my courtroom.

It was at the bar that I saw you, in the blue TV screen light. There was nothing to judge, no one to blame. Only a feeling that poured out of every part of me, replaced by something so much sweeter.

And it knocked me off my feet.

By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff: Joni Mitchell

TRANSMISSION

He’s dancing weirdly again. Time travelling, I think. The way he connects with the sound you’d think it was a live radio broadcast, not the beat from a show that ended many years ago.

The curtains are drawn, the room dark grey, a scene for the blind or anyone frightened of the sun. None who dwell in the daylight can see in. This is a private journey, to which only I am privy.

It doesn’t help that he doesn’t always use words, convinced he can transmit ideas to me through knowing nods and jerking grunts, like some epileptic Jedi master. I’m always sure to gurgle in a way that says, ‘I get it’.

No language, just sound, that’s all we need to know, right?

He’s reliving the fine times he lived in the night, that much is clear to see, the destruction, the getting wasted years. From this distance, he can only recall the touching memories, forgetful of any wounds they left in their wake.

What I’m meant to get from this is that he would’ve gone on that way, happy in the same place, staying out the time. But then he misses a beat, puts a foot wrong, and suddenly he catches his reflection. Old, fat, all too aware the things he’s learned are no longer enough.

Dammit. I’ve transmitted my thoughts too well! See his face has darkened, his feet ground to a halt. The scene: still as a faded postcard of a dreary old northern town. No one wants to play when they’re transported to somewhere like that.

I offer up my brightest smile, my arms outstretched. Everything about me whoops, ‘and we could dance!’

‘Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio.’

He obeys, of course, as dancers must.

 

By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Stephen Morris

HARVEST MOON

Talk about a Lesser God.

There’s Saturn lording it over all of agriculture, Isis giving the fertile land the horn, Indra kissing the sky to make it rain just right so that everything that grew on their green earth grew good enough to eat.

Then there was him. Xochipilli, god of maize.

‘Nice ears,’ the children of the other deities mocked, but he was too busy dreaming to get hurt.

She was Artemis, the lunar goddess, who he loved with all his heart, the one he danced away each and every night with.

‘In your dreams,’ the children taunted, and they were right.

Xochipilli preferred to watch her from afar, never daring to get even a little closer, lest he saw her shine in someone else’s eye. It was all too easy to picture her riding off into the moonlight with a worthier divinity. Like that Hindu god Soma, who—and this maddened and impressed Xochipilli in equal measures—knew how to get drunk by drinking the moon!

That summer, Limos plagued the land with a famine so catastrophic it made all crops fail, but for reasons known only to the elements, could not harm the maize. By the equinox, Xochipilli’s yield was the only thing keeping the deities fed. He was on the cover of Top Of The Crops. Demeter, the goddess of harvest, wondered if he was free for dinner.

‘Good cob,’ the children cheered.

He felt he should celebrate, and had barely hit the town when a figure came bursting out of nowhere and knocked him off his feet.

‘You know where the music’s playing?’

That voice. That grace. Artemis. He was beholding the sweet and heavenly Artemis!

‘C’mon, baby, where’s the party at?’ She howled. High as the rising moon, one too many moonshines.

Xochipilli could only stand there, frozen.

‘Hey, you’re the sweet potato guy, right?’

‘Maize,’ he managed a nervous mumble.

‘I know you!’ She giggled. ‘I think you’re a-maize-ing!’

‘That’s pretty corny,’ he punned back, intended.

‘Hey, you wanna go out and feel the night?’ she hiccupped. ‘Let’s go dancing in the light, woo!’

And with that, Artemis danced into a field, hurled into the corn and passed out sprawled across the sea of cobs. Like children sleeping, he thought.

Xochipilli did not know whether she would remember him when the sun came back to reign, or if he would ever get to see her dance again, but as he gently lifted her to dream the night away in the nook of her silken crescent, he knew only one thing.

He would always be in love with her.

For Priya Joi. By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
Neil Young

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER

‘What does paradise look like?’ the little boy wondered.

‘Nothing like this,’ his older brother promised. They both looked down their noses to soak up the surroundings. A land that lay flat as a torn roti on a bed of soggy spinach. It didn’t matter much to them.

‘It’s a magical place,’ the older boy continued, his audience rapt. ‘The stairways rise by themselves, you only have to step in front of a door and it slides opens…’

‘Like Star Trek.’

‘Like in Star Trek. And the fruits are so plentiful and juicy. Apples and apricots and strawberries…’

‘Strawberries,’ the little boy echoed, eyeing the scratchy bit of mango in his hand with disdain.

‘When you slice them in half they look like love hearts.’

The small boy pictured fields upon fields of blazing red love hearts, like poppies, only without the men standing guard with machine guns.

‘I’ll take you down there one day,’ he said and they both lived in that dream, with eyes closed.

‘Nothing is real,’ the older one finally said, ruffling his brother’s hair. The boy wondered about that for years to come. Did he mean to have nothing was their reality? Or that it meant that the opposite was true and everything was make-believe?

The memory had started to crackle. He couldn’t tune in anymore but it was all right. It was finally getting easier to be someone. It all works out.

He read the advert one last time: ‘Easy pickings and high earnings! All fruit covered by tunnels – stay dry! All fruit is grown on table tops… no more bad backs! Excellent training provided!’

He wondered what his brother back home would make of this field of dreams, whether he’d think any of it worth getting hung about.

‘Paradise Pickers’, he smiled aloud, clocking in. The day ahead would feel like it went on forever, but it was something. And it was real.

‘It’s all right,’ he reminded himself, shrugging off the uncertainty.

‘That is I think it’s not too bad.’

For Bhaiya (born 23rd June). By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
John Lennon/ Paul McCartney

I’M YOUR MAN

From: SoLoneMarianne
To: GypsyThief
Subject: Re: I’m Your Man

Wow! You certainly know how to get a girl’s attention.

Well, I have to admit the sound of another kind of love sounds pretty appealing, considering what’s been on offer lately…

So you’re a man who’ll fight for me, look after me and take me home? Only I don’t date boxers, doctors or taxi drivers! Just kidding. You didn’t say what it is you actually do, but will you really do anything I ask you to?

I wonder. It’s easy to promise the moon and the stars when all you have to do is look up, but how much poetry will you find for us in the cold light of our lives? Will you still look for the flowers when taking out our garbage? Work for my smile doing the dishes when you could be out letting your Johnny Walker wisdom run high? How long before the permission you give me to strike you down in anger leaves you broken looking like your dog just died?

And after it all, would you really crawl on your knees and fall at my feet begging please?

Lucky for you, I’m not that needy. I live my life as if it’s real (even if my friends call me half-crazy), try in my way to be free, and don’t rely on a man to make me feel beautiful… although I’d rather you didn’t actually howl when you see me!

I don’t know if I’m looking for a father for my child (ask me again when the moon’s too bright), but I like the idea of having someone to walk a while with across the sand. Maybe leave the mask at home though. At least for the first date…

So if you’re the knight in some old-fashioned book I’ve been searching for, and can deliver on even a quarter of your promises, then, well, hallelujah! It might just turn out that I’m Your Woman.

From: GypsyThief
To: SoLoneMarianne
Subject: Re: re: I’m Your Man

In a hotel in Chelsea. Fancy a fuck?

By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
Leonard Cohen

SYMPHONY NO 2: RESURRECTION

O glaube:
Du wardst nicht umsonst geboren!
Hast nicht umsonst gelebt, gelitten!

You got it.

To me it sounded a bit gay.

Your bloody Bukowski got this, you grunted. He wasn’t a bit gay.

Bit long, isn’t it? I know you like taking your time over a Number Two, but this is taking the piss…

It’s got everything your wanky beat novelists bang on about, you insisted, then suffered this fool gladly by explaining why. The search for the meaning, forgotten pleasures, light and shadows, the greatest suffering of man, something about andante, were we talking about pasta now? … I never did pay much attention to your pop-up, split-second messaging, so I’ll never know for sure what you were on about.

But I remember the bit about shadows. You didn’t say light and shade. That I’d have forgotten. You said shadows.

So basically your shadow is with you whenever you see the light, is what I said, fishing for clever. The opposite of what Neil Young said about the setting sun, yeah?

Dick, you said, and we left it at that.

Yesterday I was at a festival and I did not like the music. But the need to dance crept up on me and I found myself borrowing sounds from the wind, the shuffle of bodies and the wheels of the security truck to create my own imaginary instruments to add to the cacophony, making my body move in a way that made me look all alone.

Only I had my shadows with me. Plural. For a second or so the light hit me in a way that left me with two shadows. The umbras and penumbras they’re called. It sounds right up there with your andante and allegro, but it terrified me. One, a lifelong comforting friend, but the second appeared uninvited, creeping and lurking. Has it always walked with me unseen?

It danced at my feet, in harmony with my familiar contour, but was gone before I could accept it.

I think I get it now.

Come back.

For Rob Bell (23 Dec 1975-29 May 2015) By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff:
Gustav Mahler