Going to the Wazza in the Wetherspoons

Poem

A fond and fatalistic farewell,
Sweet fingertips touching and the sickly embrace of souls,
So teary-eyed, this overwrought scene played out
Amid plush furnishings, boozy background chatter
And pro-Brexit propaganda,
Two sweethearts parting, like lovestruck badgers,
Like swans mated for life,
Indeed, like nations
Pulling out of economic and socio-political union.
With a heavy heart, and a heavy bladder,
Does Brad’s long expedition begin, for he is
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A varnished plywood sign points the way and gives his heart hope,
As he waddles like a pregnant duck
Past tables piled high with triple decker burgers,
Through this labyrinthine, eccentrically carpeted converted sock factory
This utopia of rhythmic belching and exquisitely crafted fart jokes,
How grave this soul, like Shackleton,
Like Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing, he’s
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

An anonymous door next to the serving hatch hell hole
Through which chefs sweat over the bolognese
And churn out searing hot synchronised steak pies,
Leads to a flight of zig zag carpeted stairs up,
Up, to a landing, then on to another landing,
Then up to another landing, how our hero
Hums to himself as the pressure builds, accumulated
Through several coffees, diet Cokes, Apple and Raspberry J20s,
A gallon of water glugged at the gym,
Oh my god, why didn’t anyone stop him?
He goes up to another landing,
Then through a door behind which is another landing,
And then a corridor, and then a flight of stairs,
Until it seems that this accursed maze should
Somehow subvert physicality itself,
And become psychic, subconscious,
Or maybe they just want you to be sober
By the time you get to the bogs,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A flight of stairs.
A landing.
A flight of stairs.
A landing.
A corridor.
Bizarrely now, a flight of stairs going down,
Immediately followed by a flight of stairs going up,
WTF,
A landing,
A flight of stairs,
Vision blurring, the zig zag carpets
Beginning to resemble swastikas,
The walls melt like a wedding cake
In a jet engine,
There’s no mobile signal,
No sign of human life,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

Around the next corner he finds a haggard straggler,
Stooped for oxygen against the wall.
Go on, the old man says, you go on without me,
Tell my wife and kids I love them dearly.
Another door, another flight of stairs,
He thinks he hears the howl of a distant wolf
Or maybe it is time itself, mocking him,
He imagines his fate relayed to those who loved him,
They whisper his name on rainy afternoons,
The man who wanted a wee in the Wetherspoons.

Delirium comes to every soul.
A survival instinct kicks in.
How he pines for the gleaming porcelain of the urinals,
That he might lovingly caress their shiny brilliance
And lose himself to the lemony goodness of the urinal cakes,
A mirage ahead gets his hopes up
But turns out to be the mop cupboard,
He feels like crying, collapsing,
Scrawling his last message on the wall,
My name is Brad, I only wanted a slash,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A final corridor turns back on itself,
Reveals a door with faux gold embossed lettering, Gentlemen,
And he crashes through, almost sobbing with relief,
A journey done, a quest fulfilled, like Homers Odyssey,
Like Jason and the Argonauts,
Like those sodding Hobbits in Lord of the Rings,
He runs to the urinal and fumbles with his fly
At the exact moment that the fire alarm goes off.

The Unicycle Bride

Here’s an old poem I wrote after chatting with my friend Max at the wedding of Bryce and Oriana. My friends have quirky names, but at least I have a quirky imagination!

She’s a unicycle bride
You should see her glide
You’ll never know what she’d hide
Down there deep inside
Underneath her dress.
A unicycle.

She moves spooky
Her legs are concealed
She’s not as tall as she looks
She’s not as cool as she
Thinks she looks.

Will you take this man?
She teeters as she stands.
I, woh!
I do.
They think she’s got hiccups.
She’s covered in petals.
She’s also got pedals.

Poor girl,
The guests murmur,
Oblivious to her
Concealed vehicle,
Must be some nervous condition.

She looks quite scary
But she’s not malevolent.
And anyway it’s her wedding
So she’s prevalent.

I’ve seen the groom.
She’s got good judgement.
She’s got good balance.

Here she comes now gliding
Hovercraft
Like a poltergeist among the
Wedding guests.
It’s all happening beneath the
Surface.
From the dance floor to the bar
Smoothly, the end of her trailing
Dress and fine lacework
Stroking the skirting board
Like a man obsessed with skirting boards.
A hearty slap on the back and she’s
Almost over.
Backwards forwards she
Rocks like one of those Texan
Oil well drills.

As they pose for photos they
Throw Brussels sprouts.
One of them knocks her out.

Promotional video for my new solo show

Here’s a link to a short video I have made about my new show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak

https://youtu.be/VKEXMdGwDME

And the latest tour dates are as follows.

See you soon!

New York Poems

Here are some poems that I wrote on a trip to New York a couple of years ago. Gosh, I miss that place. Stay tuned to the end for a video I filmed on the roof garden of the Bowery House in downtown Manhattan.

New York 1.

They say that Manhattan is a state of mind
But I’ve looked on the map
And it’s definitely there.
It doesn’t stop,
Not even in the dead of night,
The rumbling, the growl,
Inexorable,
No wonder they look so angry.
I went into Starbucks at five in the morning
And there was already a queue.
Shuffling jittery city dwellers,
The insomniacs and the early risers,
The boy who cannot sleep in
The city that never sleeps,
Nothing more offputting than a
Mardy pre-caffeine New Yorker.
Don’t take coffee, I take
Well actually I do take coffee,
Thanks for asking,
And maybe one of those tarts.
I’m English, you know.
Sitting in the window and watching
The cyclists,
Weaving, open-mouthed.
Stop lights mean nothing to them,
Life seems so tentative,
These two-wheeled mosquitoes,
How many of them end up
Plastered on the front of those
Big-assed delivery trucks that you see,
Or some nobhead’s Humvee?
I thought the barista was only being nice
When he asked me for my name.
He repeated it with a smile, all
Rhotic on the consonants,
Elongating the vowels in a way
They don’t normally get pronounced,
Making my heart all fluttery
Until I notice he’d written it on my cup.
It’s the familiar things
That make me feel at home.
Crushing disappointment,
And the fact that they
Also have McDonalds over here.

New York 2.

I need one with a shot of espresso.
You’re the newbie, you’ll need this.
There’s a whole bunch of confidence there.
She never told anyone
But she likes attention.
She’s like that with every guy, trust me.
And then she can cut him out, say uh-oh,
It’s like oh, it’s bad, she’ll go far,
She got green locker room doors,
She won’t try to apologise.
I don’t have an issue with her.
Every time I told her she gave me the one two.
I used to consider you a friend
And I was your friend whatever.
(Found poem, three NYPD police women chatting in a coffee shop at the next table).

New York 3.

The way he’s sitting
And what he’s wearing
And his hair
Those are the definites.
His sensitive eyes
His long eyelashes and the
Way he just looked
At that jogger,
Those are the peripheries.
And the hoodie,
American Dance Theatre,
Alvin Ailey,
Whatever that is.
(I will google it later).
It’s all mostly symbolic
I feel
I know him.

New York 4.

She took my hand and danced with me
Amid the noise and clamour and cacophony
Of Times Square
As the skyscrapers whirled in their
Concrete and glass delirium,
She yelled
Above the engines and the horns and the
Shouting and the hooters and the sirens and the roar
And the buzz and the energy and the excitement
And the rush and the glee and the pulsing rhythms
Of the city in all its brash omnipotence,
Sorry,
I thought you were my husband.

New York 5.

(Amid the Abstract Expressionists, MoMa)
He, who isn’t here
Would have haunted these
Very pictures,
Broken nose to canvas
And a ready opinion.
Losing himself
In the Pollock
And it’s intricate action,
Felt a spark of the very now,
And would have known everyone
On first name terms.
Jasper. Jackson. Elaine. Robert. Mark.
The boy with the red trainers,
A sly flitting nonchalant phantom
Who will blond my dreams
With his purposeful demeanour
Right now here and
F would have approved.

New York 6.

I’ve only got one joke about denim.
A one liner about crinoline.
I’ve only got a couple of puns about nylon
And a quip about silk
Basically,
I’ve run out of material.

New York 7.

(Written in Tom’s Diner)
I wasn’t sitting near the window.
I was at the counter.
But it was still the diner on the corner
And the burger was mighty fine
On a drizzly Manhattan Saturday.
And there’s a ball game on the tv screen,
Notre Dame are playing NC State
And I’m not sure what the sport is
But they’ve all got helmets and shoulder pads.
There’s a picture from a magazine
Of Jerry Seinfeld on the wall and he’s
Kind of looking at me imperiously
As I eat my burger which,
As I said, is mighty fine.
I’ve got that tune in my head now,
You know the one.
The Seinfeld tv theme music.
I probably wouldn’t have come here
If it wasn’t for, you know,
These two things.

New York 8.

The Staten Island ferry
Everyone is merry
They’re all waving at me!
Am I a celebrity?
Have I been recognised?
Am I famous here?
No, they’re
Wiping mist from the windows
Of the inside seating area.
I’m depressed now.

New York 9.

She purred
Hold on there, honey,
I’ll just put you through
On to line number three.
There was barely a click.
No static.
She’s such a
Smooth operator.

New York 10.

I want to go out with Rhys.
I want to have a date with Rhys.
I want to spend quality time with Rhys.
I want to get to know Rhys.
I want to be with Rhys.
I want to make out with Rhys
I want to express my love for Rhys
I want to have relations with Rhys
I want to be at peace
With Rhys.
I say to Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please please please
Rhys Rhys Rhys
Rhys
Come on
Don’t be a tease
Put me at my ease
I haven’t got flees
You are the bees
Knees
Rhys
Rhys
What do you say?
Rhys
What of it, Rhys what of it, Rhys what do you reckon?
You and me Rhys please Rhys what do you think Rhys
Me and you Rhys you and me Rhys us together Rhys
Rhys
Us together Rhys us together Rhys us us us
Together together together
Rhys
Rhysie babes.
Please
Oh dear!
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys
Has called the police.

New York 11.

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The broad one. The tall one.
The big fella. The concrete devotional.
The prostrate giant. The cosmopolitan.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all day lunch. The concrete funnel.
The distorted mirror. The seismic cherry.
The license to chill. The delicatessen.
The bad boy. The big bad boy,
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll
Lose yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant fruit. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The big badger.
The big glacial. The big crazy.
The big security. The big despicable.
The big beat. The big Apple.

New York 12.

No ghost dance
On these gentle hills
Nor ceremonial gatherings
On the granite outcrops,
Central Park no wilderness,
Just the whisper of
Other people’s conquests
Too rooted in the now
To wander successfully.

https://youtu.be/cklyUKArFGo

Dawson’s Lake

Dawson’s Lake

It was the first day of summer.
A warm breeze breathed through the juniper bushes.
We went down to Dawson’s Lake,
Me and Emmy Lou,, Mary Lou, Betty Lou and Debs,
The hot sun glinting from the chrome grill of our
1957 fire red Lincoln Convertible,
Changed into our swimming clothes and fell under the spell
Of our youthful exuberance.

The water was cool and invigorating.
We frolicked in the shallows and then lay on the
Sand banks drying in the sun.
Mary Lou said that she was worried about sharks,
And we laughed.
Betty Lou said she was worried about axe murderers,
And we laughed.
Emmy Lou said she was worried about the
Representation of gender in the media
And I laughed,
And then I realise that nobody else was laughing.

I think I’ve found two grains of sand the same,
Said Debs,
She’d brought a microscope with her.
They’re around here someone, she said,
Looking at the ground.

I liked Betty Lou,
And I was about to suggest a session
Of heavy petting,
But her nose was running,
So we did some medium petting instead
And then
Chatted about nuclear annihilation.

Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
She said that her uncle once met the poet Hart Crane
While ice fishing on this very Lake.
I didn’t understand why anyone would go ice fishing
When you can make ice at home
Perfectly well
In your freezer.

Mary Lou turned on the radio
Just in time for Del Shannon’s Runaway.
During the chorus I
Urinated behind a rhododendron.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Debs tried to alphabetise the shrubs.
I carved my initials in the rotting carcass
Of an armadillo.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Mary Lou and Debs arm wrestled over the last ham sandwich.
Emmy Lou wrote ‘I love James Dean’
On the side of a goose.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Elvis Presley’s Crocodile Rock.
Debs uses the car door mirror to
Apply her lipstick,
Wrenched if clean off the car door.
Betty Lou gouged a Pepsi and belched so loud
A flock of geese took off in fright.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway again.
Mary Lou upchucked over the hot dogs.
Emmy Lou shrieked because she thought she saw
Richard Nixon in the undergrowth.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Buddy Holly singing Shuddupa Ya Face.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
I think I might have a problem.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway.
Our lives are small and meaningless.

I really like my nipples.

Poem

I really like my nipples.
They’re kind of parallel.
The man who delivered the pizza last night
Said he liked them as well.

I stare at them in the mirror
For hours and hours in end
Singing, look at them there
All nipply nipply ever so tripply
Skippitty dippity doo
Which is how I got banned
From Primark.

The distance between
Male nipples
Equates to the size of their you know what
Equates to the size of their you know what
Dean used to say to me,
Boy, yours are so close
They’re making me cross eyed.

Crumbs from my crusty cheese roll
Get flaked in the forest of my chest hair.
As I brush them off
I accidentally touch a nipple.
Oh yes, I shout,
I forgot I had those!
Hubba hubba.
It’s how I lost my job
As a primary school teacher.

The box full of penguin nipple tassels
I sent to the Antarctic
Was sadly returned unused
I just thought
They would brighten up the place.

I dipped my nipples in paint
And tried to use them to draw
A map of the London Underground.
The Swedish tourist said,
It’s ok, I’ve got a leaflet somewhere.

I call my left one ‘Wayne’.
The right one doesn’t really
Have a name
They both look the same
And what really is a shame
Is that I can’t bend down
And lick them.

Darts players have got them.
The man in the newsagents has got them.
My friend Pete says he’s got six.
The train conductor this morning said,
Show me your ticket,
And I said,
Show me your nipples
And he said
There’s only one tit on this train.

My left one is pierced.
It’s where I keep my keys.
I come and go with ease.
They jangle when I sneeze.

He asked me out!
He asked me out!
The man of my dreams
Asked me out!
I put my hand down my tshirt
And had a good fondle and thought
You know what?
I don’t really need him.
Lol.

A progress report on In the Glare of the Neon Yak and how it’s going.

Or, ‘On being a submarine commander.’

Not long ago I watched a TV documentary about the making of the sitcom Seinfeld, during which Jerry Seinfeld, who was writing, producing and starring in the show, said that a season of it was like being a ‘submarine commander’, in that everything else became excluded from his life and he just concentrated on the show for months on end. It was an interesting description, and I’m starting to see what he means with my new one hour show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak.

I started writing it a few days after returning from the Edinburgh fringe last year. I came up with the title first, and then I bought a circus ringmaster costume, and I tried to think of a way of combining the two. In October I had a week off from work and I sat down and wrote the whole show in five days. This surprised even me, but I was really happy with the outcome and eager to get started on rehearsing it. However, at the time I was still working on Juicy, as it had a couple of dates left.

At the end of the year I did something either brave, or stupid. I reduced the number of hours I do in my day job, in retail management. This meant there was less money coming in, of course, but it also meant I had more time to spend on Yak, and making a career out of spoken word. Little did I know that the show was about to take over my life.

Now, it must be admitted that I have always had trouble learning anything from memory. Previous to the end of the year, I couldn’t even memorise a simple three minute poem. I was asked to appear at a theatre event in Hackney and they stipulated that I had to perform a five minute poem from memory. I set about learning it and, I must say, did a damn fine job doing so. This gave me the confidence to learn something slightly longer. So what did I do? I decided to learn the whole hour show from memory!

So since the end of January, when I did my last performance of Juicy, I have been solidly lining the script for Yak. I do it every day. I do it before work, and after work. I do it on my day off, I do it at the gym while on the exercise bike, and in the sauna. I do it whenever I’m on the bus, the train, or just walking. The whole show has been completely taking up my mind all the time except for when I’m at work. And when I’m not memorising the play, I’m designing the poster, dealing with photographers for the poster, speaking to venues, filling in fringe application forms, writing blurbs, buying props and costumes, rewriting sections, working on the backing music, it really is neverending. When it snowed and I got snowed in while visiting my parents, I rehearsed while looking out the window at the snow falling. When my work colleagues left and I was alone, I rehearsed in the store room of the shop. Every spare moment has been spent on the show.

Has my normal spoken word work suffered? Possibly. I have still been writing, but not rehearsing new material with quite the same zest. I’m still promoting two spoken word nights. I’m doing feature sets around the country.

Soon I’ll be working with a director for the next couple of months. It’s an exciting chance to get someone else involved and I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks. She’s very enthusiastic about the project.

So now I know exactly what Jerry Seinfeld meant. Today, for example, I rehearsed for an hour, got the train to work while running over lines in my head, then again at lunch time, then on the train home. This evening I’ve been working on publicity material for the show, and prewriting some Tweets for a venue.

I’m having an amazing time, and I can’t wait for people to see what I’ve been up to. It’s a departure from my normal style. According to my diary, however, my first free week off from Yak will be in early September. And that’s when the submarine will be docking for the next time!

The lad on the bus watching porn on his phone. A true story.

Poem

The lad on the bus watched porn on his phone.
He thought he was alone.
He was probably going home.
Sitting at the front upstairs on a midnight bus
Between sleepy Devon villages, he’s
Not realised I’m sitting there,
Four rows back, trying not to look.

His phone screen lights his little corner,
The attended windows reflecting on two sides
Lots of limbs and flesh and to be honest
I really can’t tell what’s happening and I’m
Trying to distract myself by memorising a
Pam Ayres poem.

He’s wearing a hoodie with the hood up and a
Baseball cap and a thick coat and trackie bottoms
And the poor lad must be hot under all those layers,
Unlike the man and the woman on his phone who
Aren’t really wearing much at all, though even I
Can tell that she’s faking it,
And the man for some reason is wearing a
Deliveroo cyclists uniform and one of those big boxes.
Straight people are weird.

The bus seat head eats form a valley of
Stagecoach orange plastic at the end of which
His quivering mobile held in landscape mode
Acts like a cinema screen at a drive-in.
I ask myself, what would Pam Ayres do?
She’d wonder what kind of plan he was on.
Some of these videos use up a lot of mobile data.
Apparently.

I try not to make a sound.
The 5p carrier bag from Poundstretcher is going
To get me in all sorts of trouble.
I kind of shift down in my seat a little bit.
Part of me is jealous, not only for the impetuosity of youth,
The readily available content and
His healthy spirit of sexual experimentation,
But also because he managed to grab
The seat right at the very front.

Hoodie boy lowers his hood.
He’s got a tattoo behind his ear in Chinese script
Which I momentarily mistake for the Lidls corporate logo.
The bus slows for a stop in a nowhere town,
He puts down his phone and cups his hands against the window,
Sighs deeply, as if suddenly conscious of
All the pain in the world, ennui, inconsequentialities,
The finite nature of human existence, environmental disaster,
The meaningless of life itself, and all the wrongs
Of society.
Seeing my reflection, he jumps, then says,
I hope this bus gets home quickly,
There’s . . . Something I need to do.

On headlining at Bath Spa University pride poetry night.

As an LGBT comedy spoken word artist, every now and then I get asked to perform at LGBT events, which I’m always proud to do, especially, excuse the pun, when they are Pride events. I’ve always felt this to be a happy Duty and I’m always very pleased to be asked, as if in so doing, I am affirming my place in the world, to be philosophical. My whole oeuvre, normally, I guess, is that I am a safe, unthreatening LGBT performer for straight audiences, not that I can think of any threatening LGBT performer.

Last night I headlined at the Bath Spa University pride spoken word night, and it was an absolute pleasure. For a start, it brought my adverse audience demographic down by a couple of decades. Honestly, I was the oldest person in a room of around a hundred or so students. Secondly, they are all so open, and comfortable with who they are, and questioning, and unafraid to tell the world whatever it is that stands in the way of who they are. I felt immediately comfortable among a group of individuals for whom binary definitions are definitely a thing of the past. There were no expectations. Everyone was a real, living breathing person and performer.

Everyone brought their lives to the mic, from poems about coming out, being LGBT, being straight, battles with personal demons and addictions. The night was funny, serious, angry, and wholly life affirming. Performers from other universities were welcomed warmly and local spoken word nights were publicised. The audience was high energy and enthusiastic, and I thought, they can’t surely keep this up till the end. But they did.

My set went well. In fact, it went very well. I did the usual comedic stuff and I think the audience didn’t know what to make of me for the first minute or so, but then they submitted to the inevitable and were incredibly receptive. I usually end my set with some silly comedy based around orgasms and poke fun at whoever the hosts might be, but tonight needed something celebratory to remind everyone why they were there, so I ended with my Doors poem, which looks at LGBT and human rights issues around the world and in places where people are not so fortunate in being who they are.

And to be honest, I think it helped me, too. It helped me keep in touch with who I am, and my own culture. And it helped me keep in touch with a younger audience!

It was a wonderful night and I’m still buzzing now. My set in its entirety can be heard here:https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/robert-garnham-at-bath-spa