Fran glimpses Mac the Handsome for the last time from a packed 145 moving, in fits and starts, through traffic-choked Donnybrook. A Spring afternoon in 2009; it has just stopped drizzling & to avoid gawking at the passengers opposite him, Fran sleeves the human moisture from the window and, to see what he can see, scans the footpath. He spies Mac the Chimney leaning in a nonchalant fashion against a gate-post at the entrance to a 7 or 8 storey apartment complex, toking a rollie.
Strikingly, Mac the Always-Going-Missing has untied his trademark ponytail; dazzling waves of silver, ash, and grey ripple well past his shoulder-line, hair the starkly clashing colours of an Atlantic thunderstorm in August in Tramore. A tidy triangle of goatee, and thick, well- sculpted sideburns. A well-ironed suit the colour and lustre of polished tin, a crisp white shirt with the top two buttons undone to show off the peppery tangles of down on his dune-tinted chest. The suit’s been picked up in a charity shop, perhaps serendipitously or perhaps after hours of looking for just that kind, just that fit – Mac, a Freegan long before the term was invented, has always had plenty of time to browse the bin and the cast-offs of Dublin looking to give second lives to unwanted things.
The suit had belonged to a deceased south Dublin gentleman, an importer of wines, an exporter of chemicals, a shareholder in banks, airlines, news media, a property-portfolio holder. It was the departed man’s last suit, one his occasion-loving , book-club-facilitating wife of 57 years had bought him for a special occasion he didn’t live to attend. The occasion, a Rotary Club dinner in the Radisson Blue, Stillorgan Road, went ahead without the old man – in honour of him, even, – and the suit, along with many other sundries and detritus of a rich man’s life, got donated to the poor, or more precisely – to their guardians. This fugue suit.
Now, it’s looking handsome on Mac the Artful, who brags in nightclubs and circus tents in festival fields that he is dressed by the finest tailor in Ireland, the eclectic, populist, chaotic, era- jumbling frenchman, St Paul De Vincent. Mac the Dazzling can, on an occasion like a first date (there were rarely any second dates) or a funeral (the infinite sequence of funerals alights on Mac more often than most) turn out as snazzily as necro-tailoring allows.
Today Mac the Divilment has for some reason made a special effort to be distinct. He looks like a well-off tourist from the South of France, or from the North of Mexico. Like the owner of a casino in Marseilles, or the financial backer of a modish gallery in Guadalajara on its opening night. Fran has never seen Mac the Chancer so well turned out, so suave, so radiant in this sunny Irish rain, so like someone under lights, playing the lead in his own script.
Inch by inch, the bus shutters onward. Mac the Massive starts to shrink. Cars and people get in the way. Fran strains neck and eyes to keep him in view a little while longer.
Neither Mac’s hair nor his suit are damp, meaning he has been inside until very recently. There are only two real freedoms available to people like us in this world, (says Mac to Fran at 6am on a settee in Ongar, nodge-holes all over his Louis Copeland threads, as if a tiny meteor shower has befallen him ) two great transgressions. There’s getting twisted, and there’s spending. There’s doing either of them fearlessly, guiltlessly, with a grand abandon, for kicks alone. Pubs exist to give the opportunity to combust with both freedoms at once. That’s why we keep going back to them, no matter what else is happening in the world…But what about riding, Fran remembers asking him in reply. Oh, says Charming Mac, sex is just like going for a shit, you have to do it now & then or you’ll burst…
Plenty of brothels in Donnybrook.
Or has he been at a funeral…a wedding reception….a fortieth? Donnybrook is an area where all of the above, sexwork, weddings, pub-parties and funerals wheel on and on and on, ad infinitum.
There’s a theory, Fran thinks it’s Hindu or Kabbalah, that humanity is just one self- shattered soul, shared out between billions of bodies, each going through Gehenna alone. The thought strikes Fran now that Mac the Unrequited, in the shimmering, passed-over clothes of the recently dead, had dressed himself up for his own funeral, attended only by himself.
Fran gives a talk on Creativity and Personal Growth to a small writing group made up of survivors of institutional abuse. Surviving survivors as they describe themselves, marking themselves off from the many who don’t survive, but also indicating the ongoing effort required to survive, to be a survivor. Over the cup of tea afterwards, a man with a slight stutter introduces himself as John from Hybrassil and asks Fran does he know M..Mac, The Mad P..Poet? Of course I know Mac the Madyoke, Fran replies, sure who doesn’t round these parts? John confides that poor ould Mac the Sorrowful sufferer is after having a terrible t..time of it from Day 1, Fran’s ears prick up, half empathy, half schadenfreude. Turns out Mac from Hell and John from Hybrassil shared the same Foster home for a while. But after a couple of months Mac the too troublesome was shuffled out into a religious center for doomed youth overseen by the health board, one of those priest and nun-infested hell-holes for which the files have all been lost or destroyed and the staff spirited away decades ago to distant missions to continue anonymously their vocational rapery. The other thing Mac the Rural and John from Hybrassil had in common was they’d both – in John’s uncouth and unforgiving phrase – been b..b..buggered up the arse in their teens by the same jolly Bishop. John from Hybrassil is dealing with his past, moving on, getting over it, doing evening courses in cookery and mindfulness, as well as writing a bit – to bleed the bad b..b..blood out o’ me, as he puts it. He is prudently dividing his compensation between house renovations and a long-term savings account with a guaranteed return from the state. What John says he needs to concentrate on now is not surviving the disaster of his childhood – that achievement is done and dusted, more or less, as far as he was concerned – but on keeping fit in b..body, mind, and spirit to face the challenges of his impending middle age. Mac, as far as John is aware, doesn’t even attend any of the offered free counselling, which has turned John’s life around. Perhaps Mac is better off not doing so, Fran doesn’t say out loud, given what happened to him the last time he got cornered by a confessor. Mac is too cute a fox to get caught in the same trap twice, thinks Fran. Nor, entrusts John, has Mac applied for the compensation that was due to him. Now that, Fran thinks, is odd of Mac the Inebriate, given that the wad would have him high and stocious, one day at a time, for a year or so, depending.
Six or eight months previous to the Donnybrook sighting, Fran sights Mac out of the corner of his eye while strolling down Grafton street with Finn. Fran is leaning against the hoardings around a closed down department store, smoking a trademark rollie. Being with Finn makes the situation awkward, but Fran shrugs his shoulders and announces he is going over to have a chat and see how Mac is doing. He’ll follow Finn on in a minute and catch up with him in Boots, where they will spray themselves with clouds of free samples of the most expensive cologne.
Mac sees Fran seeing him but pretends, amateurishly – perhaps mockingly -to be surprised when Fran strides out of the shopping throng.
Ah – it’s yerself, the prize winnin poet. Yer lookin a bit out a shape now I must say. You’d wanna get up off that desk and try walkin around a bit.
Fran smirks. Mac hasn’t lost it. No wonder he’d been introduced one night as the man and his mockery. Mac is better at mocking than anyone else on the Dublin spoken word scene. He is renowned for it all over Ireland, in fact. It is important not to react. He always stops mocking and settles down into a merely resentful state after a little while of being aggressive, as long as you don’t react. A slagging match with Mac could last you the rest of your life.
Up close, his lips are the blotchy lustreless pink of the cheapest cuts of farmed salmon. The capillaries bloom on his cheeks like a blood-coloured algae. His eyes look like someone has popped them out of his head, stamped on them a few times, and put them back in the wrong way around. The tips of his fingers are lacquered yellow and brown – he sucks his incessant roll-ups down to the last lip-scorching drags – joints too. He has fallen a fair bit further since the last time Fran’d run into him.
What are you up to? Fran asks.
Heading home, bit by bit, had a late night.
Yeh? Where were ya?
You’re like a Guard.
Mac’s voice seems to be rising, with great effort, from somewhere well below his throat, as if he has swallowed it down along with the red wine; indigo wine-scabs at the corners of his slash of a mouth. He blows smoke and stares at Fran for while as the smoke drifts, and then he resumes:
You know what I’ve been working on this morning, since about 6AM?
Haven’t a clue, but tell me.
I’ve been working on a theory of the origins and purpose of obesity.
Fran doesn’t know where this was going, but decides he wouldn’t mind finding out.
The origins are greed, the purpose satisfying it, Fran tells him
From one angle, sure, the bottom up angle, the angle of the individual participant. I guess.
Mac grows excited. Smoke chimneys through his tombstone teeth.
Says Mac, but the epidemic isn’t coming from the bottom. It’s coming from the top. It’s a directed epidemic, isn’t it?
I suppose that’s obvious, but it’s meeting a desire that is present at the bottom.
That’s what I’ve been thinking on, said Mac. Where was this insatiable desire for corn-syrup in 1970, say?
Awaiting activation? Fran proposes.
Could be. Could also be that it’s a newly created desire, a new insertion into the human body.
But how do you insert a desire? Through the food chain.
So, vulnerable people are eating more because they are eating more. That’s a circular argument.
Mac excretes steam-trains of smoke and considers.
We’re all vulnerable people, he says. Vulnerable through our absolutes. And our absolutes can be changed.
Did you ever hear of the Vietnamese Pot-bellied Pig?
There’s one in the open farm in Kilcoole. You should go and see it.
To see how a creature’s absolutes can be changed.
What have they done to it?
Bred the feeling of fullness out of it, so it’s costantly hungry and will eat anything, continuously.
Perfect pig to feed a body to.
Perfect pig to feed a body to.
More smoke, drifting upwards from the bonfire of Mac’s face.
They have managed to do the same to humans. How?
We have an absolute need for water, and as infants, for milk. We do.
Something has been put in the water, or in formula, or both, some chemical that alters our appetites, denies us satisfaction, so we have to keep eating, and eating foods of certain nature.
Full of corn-syrup. Yes.
But who, do you reckon, is doing that?
The pharmagricultural complex.
A term you have just invented, I’m guessing.
It’s creative. I’ll give you that.
Thought you could do with the tip off.
I’m not that fat.
Not yet. You better stop drinking water from the tap. For a start off.
Right, well do you need anything? Bus fare maybe? Hostel money?
Ok, well good to see you and have a good one. I’m off to catch up with Finn.
To which news Mac blows more smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. Campfires of smoke. By the time it clears, the two poets have vanished from each other’s sight like two magicians whose duel ends in mutual vanishment, mutual annihilation.
Mac and Finn go out on the beer one night in winter 2007 after the Monday Echo in the International. They’ve both been on stage and both, Finn as uplifting hippie, Mac as downcasting punk, have impressed the crowd of mostly twenty-somethings, among which were several tables of clap-happy, tipsy young Spaniards, Italians, and French. Afterwards both master-performers are on an ego-high, surrounded by glassy-eyed admirers asking them brag-inducing questions like “How did do you come up with your ideas” and “Do you put a lot of practice in”. Then, a young woman from Adamstown called Aisling tosses them a couple of yokes each, as a token of appreciation.
The only fans worth having are ones who will fuck you or drug you, Mac once told Fran and Finn. On a settee in Glasnevin, Fran believes it was.
Four hours after dropping what turns to be, for once, genuine Ecstasy, Mac the High & Finn the Mighty are booted out of Bruxelles. The row they’d been having with some other crowd inside follows them outside and, with a demonic life of its own, continues loudly between them on Grafton Street. No-one knows which of the two poets is failed first by words and descends to the barbarism of the blow. Once the fight gets going though, someone has to finish it. Finn’s a city bloke – Derry city, originally – and he fights an unfair fight as well as any of his community, but there probably aren’t many who can take on a drunk galoot from the weshtern sticks like Mac, once the whirlwind inside him gets properly going. Under normal circumstances, a couple of weeks or maybe months would have gone by and they’d have made up and been binging together again.
It isn’t to be. See, Finn has a runaway father he never knew. Although braggingly he calls himself the self-born son of himself, gangsta rap-style, in one of his most self- aggrandising poems, Bogside Chant of The Authochont!, Finn doesn’t in fact know anything precise about who his earthlyfather really is. His Ma also does not remember too much about the gentleman. She often jokingly, dismissingly, in the wee hours, & after a good few wee wans, that she was herself surprised to learn that she was pregnant, something which was only revealed after the Caesarean, when she had gone in to AnE on a stretcher thinking Finn was a particularly large & excruciating kidney stone.
Finn first tells everyone in school in the Brunner that he was sired by Phil Lynott. That his mother had shagged Phil Lynott in the jacks in Sandinos back in the day. Then, when Finn gets to reading books and studying, a good while after he has walked out of school and stopped playing footie and shoplifting, he makes up his mind that his father is Bobby Sands, who was sent to the Bogside by the IRA in July of 1978 for for the holy and unique purpose of bringing Finn – the NEW IRISHMAN aka IRLANDESE NOUVO – into the world. Finn claims that for his mother the conception had been something like an alien abduction, which is why she can’t remember an inch of it.
To wind Finn up, which except on this point isn’t an easy thing to do, Fran used to say how do you know it wasn’t Charlie Haughey, or one of those theatre fellows or some other dirty rich bollocks on a rough trade safari, only pretending to be Bobby Sands?
Mac, on this famed occasion of The Scrap, goes much further than what can be considered a joke, even between rival irish poets. Standing over Finn in bloody-mouthed triumph, with fragments of nipple and chest hair between his mdma-whittled front teeth, Mac roars BRITISH BASTARD at Finn, not once but twenty or thirty times, varying the rhythm, the pace, the volume, the intonation of the phrase, making quite the performance of it, in fact. Finn and Mac will never go near each other again. And Fran doesn’t see much of Mac after that either, and eventually nothing. After the scrap Mac goes into what then seems to be just one of his regular phases of strategical withdrawal from the scene, something he always does for an indeterminate period after causing a ruckus at a reading or throwing a slap at some young turk up on stage who can’t handle Mac’s nasty drunken heckling and has answered with their own abuse, rap-battle style.
However, this turns out to be, at least so far, Mac’s final retreat.
Although Finn loses the scrap, he wins the subsequent poetry PR battle, boosting his tag value massively by gaining a major video-poem hit with the performance poem The Phoenix Versus the Rat, which tears public shreds out of Mac with a scintillating eloquence Mac can’t, or won’t, reply to. Because of the buzz created by the poem and the new and broader following it gave him, Finn is promoted to the gala circuit of the spoken word international, paid to perform at snazzy, ticketed events all over Britain, the US and Canada. He spends a quarter on tour abroad as a headlining act, and when he comes home the first thing he proclaims to one and all was how sick and tired he is of threesomes and that he never wants to see a standing ovation again.
Mac, meanwhile, is variously rumoured to be holed up in a bedsit in Athlone living off homebrew and ricecakes and refusing to answer the door, or gone back to the fishing work he hates so much, deep-sea-trawling with a bunch of Egyptians off Courtmacsherry perhaps…
Finn thrives on his schadenfreude concerning the rumours about Mac’s downfall just as much as he thrives on his own public acclaim. He swears Fran to secrecy on the nipple, goes and gets a third eye tattooed on the gap. Now, when he habitually rips off his top on stage he veers between claiming he was born with a sign of the secret occult, or that his nipple was bitten by a German Shepherd during an otherwise massively successful burglary.
These days Mac doesn’t have a youtube channel. He doesn’t upload to Soundcloud. He doesn’t tweet. He doesn’t Vine. He doesn’t Instagram. I’m not caring about sharing, he says, to Adele. He doesn’t have a Facebook account. The Mcdonald’s of identity, he calls it, to Stephanie. In fact, he doesn’t even have the internet, or a laptop, or a smartphone. He doesn’t have anything to do with computers or social media atall. He makes out to Brid that this is because he believes that engaging with computer technology poisons the brain in a particular way; the more time you spend on computers the more computer-like your own thinking becomes. There is a war, he explains to Karine, between binary logic and visionary truths. Of their very nature the latter cannot be uploaded or downloaded, condensed in a zip file, or tweeted. Visionary truths can only be spoken person to person, human to human, in a live atmosphere. That is the only wireless connection he is interested in. The moment is all that mattered, he claims to Charly, the moment-between, when the enunciation of the poet is both uttered and received by the living flesh. Record is always industrial, he says to Timothea. Record is death. Steer clear of the Industrial. Steer clear of death.
In fact, Mac was one of the first of the Dublin poets to realise the regenerative potential of the internet for poetry. He saw that you could use it to bypass all the old institutions that were holding poetry back from the masses, that you could use it to directly connect, to create your own audience, a new audience for a new poetry. And you could make yourself a big name doing so. A gangsta name. A true independent. The first on these shores that hadn’t sold out or kissed the Bishop’s ring since O Rahilly. A Gangsta Poet.
Way back in the prehistoric 90s Mac is a familiar face in a particular internet cafe in Rathmines where, with the help of friendly staff from Sweden, Paraguay, and Athlone, he uploads poems and recordings of poems to the rudimentary sites then in operation. The quality of the recordings is awful, and the poems are not much better. Yet he receives encouraging commentary from a variety of early adopters like himself. He is a particular favourite of Janice from Coventry, whose praise is always effusive. Mac entertains the notion of going to see Janice, who, after all, is only a ferry-ride and a bus journey away. He writes a poem about the longing of two lovers separated by a great distance and many obstacles, but whom fate and poetry will shortly draw together in an ecstasy previously unknown to humankind. He uploads it with a dedication to Janice and a note underneath saying recording to follow in a couple of days. But there is no comment from Janice, and, a couple of days later, going back over the threads underneath previous uploadings with the intent of cheering himself up, Mac finds that Janice has deleted all her previous comments too, as well as her profile. Mac concludes, perhaps too hastily, that Janice is in fact a rival Irish poet taking the piss. But, which one? The situation drives Mac insane with rage. More precisely, it activates the immanent and all-powerful rage which has dwelled inside him from his earliest days, caused by his earliest and deepest rejections. Rejections and insults and slights and beatings and rapes carried out against him by agents of ultimately anonymous forces against which there is no recourse and no justice to be had. The curse of a rage that is impossible either to repress or expel was placed upon him at birth, his destiny controlled by a witch he can neither name nor locate. ‘Janice’ is the latest manifestation of this curse with no utterer, this witch without a face. Casting about for an answer to his cry for retribution, Mac finds as usual that the only revenge to be had is against himself, and those most like himself, those closest to the epicentre when the rage explodes in his heart like a bomb in a Birmingham pub. Not for the first time in his life nor the last, Mac becomes like his enemy, only worse, he breeds his rage with the sin that has been visited upon him and multiplies it. He becomes a troll. For years, under various fake identities, he leaves vile comments under poems uploaded by poets he hangs around with on the Dublin performance scene. He doesn’t know how to cover his tracks, however, nor does he know when to give up the ghost and own up. In summer 2003 a publisher gets pissed off with the online abuse one of her prize-winning writers is getting and pays a private detective to discover the real identities of seventeen troll accounts. All but one are traced back to Mac’s IP address. Mac goes online the night the news breaks indignantly denying the charges, calling out a conspiracy against the only real irish poet in this shithole city, and threatening to sue anyone who repeats the allegations. He puts up an online petition calling for the publisher to have their state funding withdrawn. In the week it is up it receives only one signature from someone who is not Mac pretending to be someone else. That signature is from ‘Coventry Janice’.
Six months go by without a single invitation to perform. Mac the Shunned realises, dimly, in the midst of massive drug, drink and porn binges, that he needs some form of rebirth, some form of cleansing act that will take some of the deep black stain of betrayal away from him. He chooses an ersatz, Irish version of Hari-Kari; emigration. He takes off, first London, then Newcastle, then finally Glasgow where he falls in a with a good lot, a cheerily mixed subculture of levellers and conspiracy theorists and squatters who work on building sites by day and spit rhymes and rants at each other by night. By the time Mac feels the itch to be the only real Irish poet in Dublin again it is 2007. Many of the posher youngsters who had been targets of Mac the Nasty’s trolling have naturally lost interest in poetry and left the scene altogether. The rest of the poets, now referred to by the replacing youngsters as the veterans or even the establishment, are inclined to let bygones be bygones and take Mac back. His poems have improved, somewhat, and the street poets of Dublin, languishing in bitter obscurity, are desperate for any kind of novelty or variety to keep their illusion of an important artistic movement alive. Besides, Mac isn’t the only one among them who has indulged in sneaky manoeuvring or one sort or another. In forgiving him and re-absorbing him into the pack, the poets are giving themselves leave for self-absolution as well.
There is no-one with a greater sense of their own artistic importance, or their importance to the spoken word movement, than Mac. Away, under the influence of Polish anarchists and Geordie Rastafarians, he has become a spoken word purist, a spoken word extremist, and has developed an exotic philosophy to go with this self- transformation, or self-realization, the centrepiece of which is the rejection of all technologies but the tongue, all mediums but the voice. Total withdrawal from the internet is only the first step. Next, he takes against books, against literacy itself. He refuses to read or even to touch books. And he is scaldingly contemptuous of all the spoken word poets who express a longing to publish a book. To Mac, books are dead forests, dead birds, dead wildlife, evidence of a Gaiacide for which there will be hell to pay, eventually. Writers are the murderers of the Amazon, blinded to their innate evil by the immense sun of their individual narcissism. The burning of the library of Alexandria he refers to as the First Egyptian Revolution. He concedes the relative evil of Nazis and Inquisitors, but maintains that book-burning is an objective good.
What Mac tells Fran, a fortnight after he has delivered the above as rambling half-poem half-speech at another comeback gig in The International, & while they are splayed out cock- eyed together on another dawning exurban settee, is that with the aid of deep meditation, an ocean of booze, and what Mac deems personal magic, on which he will not elaborate, he has wilfully forgotten how to write and how to read.
Although Fran’s suspicion remained that Mac is still trolling despite all this banter, only doing so more intelligently – there is absolutely nothing you can put past Mac – he is struck by the militant, magical ignorance of this notion of wilful erasure of a life’s data, this intentional rebooting of the self. If you could forget how to read and write, what else could you will yourself to forget? Mathematics? History? Yourself? This, when he’s being sentimental, is what Fran fancies has happened to Mac. It’s not that Mac’s decomposing out in Vartry Reservoir, or that he has jumped, coated in tomato sauce, into a pen full of pot-bellied pigs, or that he’s in a dipso ward somewhere strapped to a mattress of a thousand piss-stains. It’s not that he’s missing or dead. It’s that he has somehow managed to forget himself completely and that he no longer exists in these dimensions. But not just that – it’s as if he never did.
The summer after The Scrap with Finn, late summer 2008, Fran looks up and sees Mac sitting across from him at a picnic table, smoking a Camberwell Carrot. They look through each other for a while and then Mac passes Fran the impressively-steaming joint. It was good weed, hydroponic, which Fran is extremely grateful for given that, as usual, he has either gone through or lost all his drugs during the night and has made no provision for a comedown dose. There are only two things now that can save Fran from the oncoming hellstorm in his head. One is a death-like, Mariana-deep-sleep, sleep in a temperature- controlled, soundproofed, pitch-black room for hours and hours on end, of which there is no prospect. The other is a really strong joint. Fran is saved. Fran asks his saviour how he is now:
Sorry to hear it. Anything particular?
A couple of weeks ago my sister went and died on me.
Fran didn’t know Mac had a sister, or a brother, or anything.
What happened her?
Christ. Was she older or younger? Older. By two or three years.
Sorry man. The funeral must have been tough. I wasn’t at the funeral.
It was in New York. She’s been there for donkey’s years. I couldn’t afford it.
Fran and Mac sit there unitedly stoned at that picnic table in the middle of a Boschian morning in a field in Co Leitrim in the early 21st Century, cacophonic chaos all around. Drums, trumpets, bongos, fiddles, spoon-players, bone-players…dread-headed drunks puking into their didgeridoos. Dub Reggae blasting out of one tent. Drum and bass from another. Hare-krishna style chanting and ohm-ing comes from a third.
Even without the grass, it would have been difficult to do any straight thinking.
Sometimes there is a brief silence, as if all the contending musics have momentarily blanked each other out. Hurtling out of that silence comes the screaming of a beardy man dressed as a viking, in a viking kilt, prostrate on his back about twenty feet away, only partially visible through the shifting thickets of the mob. His legs are spread wide and there is liquid pooling between them. Fran can’t tell if it is blood or piss or liquid shit or all three or what. Placental fluid, perhaps. Is this Leitrim Viking to first man ever to give birth? Or, more likely, the first to miscarry? In the distance there are people ass-fucking new friends up against fences and people galloping around, flying kites in the nip. Chinese lanterns like shoals of flaming jellyfish traversing the sky. Stone cold sober saleswomen weaving in and out of the smoke- shrouded throngs with trays of vodka jelly and boxes of fags, getting a tenner a shot, twenty for the smokes at this hangdog hour of the morning. One poor youngfella called Dylan is inside a portaloo when, somehow, it overturns. He is covered head to toe in a weekend of randomers’ shit, and is now wandering around in utterly stinking distress, mewling for some kind of help; but there aren’t enough baby wipes in the world, and nobody wants to help. They are all too busy chomping down or vomiting up falafel and wine. They are too wrapped up in drinking vodka from Chisinau out of a wellington. They are, after all, too stoned and too tripped out and too perceptually discommoded by far to know if the lad in the life-like shit costume, the shit-like life costume is real or not. Not one among the thousands of fellow revellers could figure out how to aid her anyway, even if they desired to. Fran too is uncertain about the chap made of shit, and about everything else Fran is, or maybe is not, witnessing. And when he is uncertain and stoned Fran, remembering an early, reverbatory lyric of Ezra Pound’s, makes like a tree and stays put, watching.
Fran watches a Massey Ferguson stutter by with six or seven looting drunkards sitting in the cabin and another few in the scoop. In a variety of barbarically clashing keys and tempos, the scoop posse are murdering Amhrán na bhFiann. It is almost too much for Fran to cope with, almost an indigestible overload of the senses he’d never get over, one mangled into his nightmares from now on, one regurgitated endlessly in futile group therapy sessions provided by christian charities. But, because of the weed, Fran isn’t really part of the temporal morning atall, and neither is Mac.
For the first time, Fran fully understands Mac’s quest to be permanently drunk and high. Sure, isn’t the world always like this, a million hurricaning tales of confusion, abandonment, and doom, about which nothing can be done, from which nothing whatsoever can be rescued atall. And don’t all need to find their own way of distancing, of letting the meaningless of Planet Earth ungrievingly shine forth?
Poems sail back and forth through the high pink sky of Fran’s brain upon banners tailed to zeppelins, or zig-zagged by tiny flickering red admiral hosts in the dawn. He can’t guess how much time has passed while goofing out, but the strong, long-lasting joint is just beginning to wear off when he finds himself reaching a hand across the bench to shake Mac awake and stop him falling into a pint glass. Fran allows a few seconds for a little light and understanding to return to Mac’s eyes and then says
How’s the poetry going? I quit being a poet.
I didn’t know it was something you could quit. It is.
Fair enough…what are you doing now?
Looking for something else to forget.
That night, returning to Dublin on the festival coach, and long after losing or shaking off Mac, who is unFinnscious, piss-stained, shivering, dribbling, sputtering in a perimeter ditch, where what remains of him could be lying still, never mind Fran’s hallucination in Donnybrook, for in Ireland the missing Finntinue to be spotted alive by their friends & family years and decades after they have died, his skull entangled in briars, his bones an effusion of dark, almost black, green leaf, florified and faunified, intermarried with the Hawthorn, the Holly, the encroaching bog, the bograts, a mink, a holy and regenerative site like a holy well, the only real Irish poet, more bog-like than the bog itself…
Fran remembers when his Dad’s brother choked on puke in a bedsit in London in January 1986. Dad, a casual labourer, didn’t have the bucks to travel across to the funeral. Snow on the ground for ten days, and little building work to go around as a result, and even though Fran’s Dad had traipsed him and his two younger sisters down to the labour exchange in a show of pieta, the labour exchange had refused any help. Hatred of Snow is the name of the poem if you ever chance across it in one of Fran’s books. Later that same day, another labourer, a close family friend, called to the door and insisted on handing over an envelope containing enough money to travel to England and grieve in the proper way. Fran briefly mused how it would have been proper too if he had done something similar for Mac, but of course he couldn’t. It was too late. Anyway, they didn’t have that kind of connection. It wasn’t that kind of scene.