Doctor Lazarus [excerpt] – David Hay
March 20, 2021
Here I am, my mother gone, my father gone,
no one left to regard my faults with a kind eye.
They are free from time whereas I am its slave,
its concubine of demandable lusts.
Look at me all Shakespeare,
I’m Hamlet with no father to revenge,
just a foolish knave caught in the mire of indecision,
knowing not what is true and what is false.
I have constructed myself into this stupid wretch,
this howling idiot with teenage pretension
and an angst that even I’m bored of.
Here is my debased prayer that has sat in the heart of me
since my father’s death; here is every pathetic utterance
that has been shrouded by my most deceitful tongue,
which cloaks my true self from my mother’s shame.
My grotesqueness knows no bounds.
I am scared, scared of the road ahead of me,
terrified by the thought, the decision that accompanies each step.
Every kernel of my mother’s hope has been lost
to the four winds that dictate the comings and goings
of each slug-like soul.
I chart my history along the lines of slime–
back to my accidental conception where chance assaulted
my mother’s dreams and stitched my flesh
to the cross of her threadbare desires.
This madness started with my father’s death,
52 with a ruddy complexion,
the one that accompanies your face after siesta taken on a couch.
I tried (try) to bridge the phantom depths
between my father’s image and me,
on the wrong side of thirty, drunk on my own futility.
No, his death created a chasm between what I was and now am,
the boy and the man, the dreamer and the dreary realist (read cynic)
I now am.
Cast your smiling hooks farther into my eyes and let me see you;
let me hear that broken staccato voice that drove dogs to suicide.
Let me hear your careful stumbled words as you told me of my mother’s death.
Melodrama befits only fools. But here, (look, take it)
here is a son’s plea to a mute father but not told using the lexis of monotony,
of contrived structure but with the prosody of the gutter’s sludge–
sought beyond that surface-self of quirky characters and limp pleasant prose,
to the sickly rose-coloured heart, in clear-cut sentences
that fail to give order to nature’s chaos.
Here is a fool’s monologue, shit on it as you please.
‘Let’s have one last look at you and take one more skin sample.
Sorry about the pinch’.
He wheeled round on his chair put my skin into a test tube and wheeled back round.
He looked like he had been drunk the night before.
‘Your skin looks marvellous, took five years off you at least.
It’s like you have a future’.
I didn’t speak and simply held his gaze,
to try and communicate the measure of myself,
my true depths untouched by him and his cream,
the corruption and degradation of every day,
of every little defeat, which must be borne until you step clean
through the darkness, weightless into the cemetery of your forefathers.
‘Very good. Now mum’s the word you understand.
All that passed here is confidential,
if you speak, the prison bars will be the only things
that hold you for a long time.
No money. No freedom.’
I nod, the words do not obey my commands
and they disintegrate into the formless dark mass of my mind.
Prison holds little fear for me.
In many ways it would be an upgrade
(take this as my one fingered salute you bureaucratic circle jerks).
‘The women at the front desk will give you your payment.
You have been good here, adhered, as you should to proper authority.
If any more trials come up, we have your contact details. Goodbye.’
He stood up, as if someone had inserted a cattle prod up his anus.
‘Goodbye.’ And here I am on the threshold of another uncertain future.
I pick up my duffel bag, which is the only home I know
and step out of the previously locked examination room,
to my cash, my store own baked beans and Aldi gin and
my hostel room for a tenner a night and well that’s it –
that will be a luxury before I try and find an honest job (again)
working in some pound shop, with sixteen year olds,
who know each pore of skin more than the continents that shape our world–
get off your high horse old man your generation’s vacuous as the next,
we just couldn’t broadcast our neurosis at the touch of a button.
I walk through the many hospital styled corridors,
past the security guards with their tasers and blue caps,
and their muscled torsos that make them look
like they have chicken legs, to the front desk,
with the women dolled up as if their escorts.
Closed-fist face would be trying his luck with them all the time.
Rich people just live clichés.
The woman doesn’t smile at me the way she smiles
at the doctors and nurses and other big wigs
that pass through the security terminals.
She looks at me, as I’ve just let out a tear inducing fart,
like I’m contemptible.
She isn’t a bitch, I don’t go in for all that sexist shit
–she’s just another corporate arse finger, digging out every morsel of shit
she can get with her well-manicured hands on;
privileging only her own fulfilment, her own happiness.
That’s one of the great crimes of the 21st century,
making selfishness a virtue, self-affirmation above collective good,
and the individual dispossessed, removed from the common heart.
I know Emerson I stole your thoughts and made them mine.
I give her my name and she says ‘ahh,’ as if finally my unwanted presence is explained.
The woman says it has been transferred to my account;
I leave knowing that I will scuttle through these corridors again.
First I will make my way to the Job Centre, sign myself up,
as it takes weeks for them to get their act together,
before I have to spend thirty-five hours searching for jobs per week.
If you weren’t depressed to start off with you will be by the end of the week
as CV after CV is lost in ether of the internet never
to be replied to or even considered as I live off the twenty quid
or so I have spare every week– let no fool tell you this is easy.
The Jobcentre was bleaker than the gift shop at Auschwitz–
it made your heart really sink.
Two men were standing outside smoking,
clothed in unironed ( do you iron them?) tracksuit and jeans with some generic hoody,
which made the northwest sky seem brimming with life in comparison.
My father, my mother shared these same skies,
we knew the bitterness of the grey-coated hours
and the rich dark Lancashire loam caught beneath our nails,
our bodies walking sepulchres,
full of our memories,
our regrets overweighing our joys.
Thoughts within thoughts within thoughts, interlinked.
There is no escape from the void centred in the skull:
that empty space where eyes dimly see, dimly receive,
authoring our own shabby realities.
Free from the bindings of the grey-eyed security guards,
signed up, in limbo for five weeks until I’m processed,
tested, sampled and spat out again, waiting for my
monthly allowance of £525, flat sharing with some nob
who harks on about the bulldog spirit and traditional British values
as I eat my baked beans on toast,
wondering whether or not heroin would at least make his generic face,
with his generic thoughts and his dulled desires
that cling with obsessional tenacity to the tits and cunts of women,
robbed of personalities in the ceaseless kaleidoscopic
horror of his far too literal brain,
that knows only edges and cuts,
more interesting to look at.
In the deep-sorrowed time of the late autumnal hour,
I leave the Connie,
where planners laid out their utopian visions of new towns
only for the middle men, those corporate junkies
of moneyed time who speak of temperance,
‘we must be pragmatic’ and other such meaningless phrases,
and so they gave up, and now if you know where to look
you can see roads that fade out into the deep tree green,
reaching no destination, where the factories and railways once were,
before the iron lady suffocated the north
with its industrial towns that make up my name,
and each child knew defeat before its first step.
Rant over. Let’s get the narrative
(what little there is) back on track.
There is a single road that runs snake-like
from the lost dream of Skelmersdale to my village,
which lost its church when I was eight
as the elderly slowly diminished and the young ignored it
and instead went to the pub on Sundays,
until it too shut down and turned into
two small homes when I was twelve
and no one had anywhere to go.
It was like someone had carved out the village’s heart.
No one missed the church but the pub…
that was what put this place on the map;
everyone knew it for its good food and cheap beer
until well…it shut when new owners took over
and the food turned to shit and it fell into an old man’s drinking dive.
The village had no centre to cling to and so we all drank alone,
apart but still connected by that one road–
that road of leaving and returning.
This area is a tax free zone.
Corporations flocked here and now my home is no more,
not even the grave I dug for my cat, that big, fat, loveable beast–
that walking train-wreck of thick black fur,
who struggled to jump on your lap
never mind up walls or over gates.
No even he, one Moby, aptly named
who when I was broken by the weight of teenage years
gave me a sense of peace as he lay fat,
falling of my lap (if I didn’t rescue him)–
has been lost into that all too common darkness.
I cling to my memories
and even though some crisp factory rests
on the bones of my various pets
I want to be witness to it, take it all in,
ground myself in the present,
as I feel that I have no past
and I certainly don’t have a future.