Work in Progress


As I am walking, a bottle rolls and smashes against the wall.

But in a repetitive time, soon to be closed, it is not as simple as that. (And what does the bottle have to say about this: does it know that it is an ‘a’ and the wall an implacable ‘the’?)

It would be more accurate to employ a continuous preterite ‘as I walkinged’ or a present perfect ‘I am walked’.

But what if, years after the bottle’s prewritten collision, I need to describe what happened? It would be necessary to use some kind of continuous perfect ‘I had walkinged’ or imperfect perfect ‘I was walked’.


At the close of the Godtime, entropic Chaos corrupted and shattered the world. Riot police patrolling the dingy outskirts of Liverpool were ambushed by flocks of griffins; CS gas mutated them into harpies. The few remaining ships were capsized in a squabble between second-rate musicians and alternative comedians. Buses screeched over flyovers into the amber night. Surrounded by flames, a lunatic in a library computed the union of the Mersey Tunnel and Tyne Bridge. Imprisoned for atheism, the Marquis de Sade paced the ramparts of the Bastille and ignored the gathering storm.


Effectively manages their time and prioritises their workload in accordance with business, stroke, team requirements. Will occasionally go the extra mile to achieve goals and targets when time constraints are tight.

– If you could please hold, I’ll put you through to someone who gives a fuck.

Modifies interpersonal behaviour and actions effectively to obtain best relationship, stroke, reaction from colleagues, stroke, audiences in all situations.

– As you are doubtless aware, breathing too loudly is contrary to company policy.

Consistently demonstrates an open view and invites alternative viewpoints, incorporating these into their thinking and activity.

– Decisions regarding bonuses will be made using the time-honoured scientific method of rolling a die.


The drug dealer didn’t work at the office of death, but they had sent him.

– I release you from suicidal summer and its accusations of sweat. I am the bringer of sparkling midnight, precious secrets, the sweet guilty haemorrhage and the traumatised foreskin, he did not say.

His domain was tawdry: a broken pool table, cheap scotch.

The artist removed the rolled-up bank note from her nose and turned away.

– No. Don’t look at me. You’re too polite.


Daylight was failing and so were the two writers witnessing its demise. One leaned into the still open curtain.

– What’s that mask he’s always wearing?

– Everything is going to change. When I get my licence next year, I’ll be able to drive anywhere.

– After I move away, there will be people who care.

– And the war against language?

– Out across the city in a dark alley – nameless – you can’t walk that way.

– Where are you going?

– To the the

– Have you got any money?

– No.

– But you’ve got a travelcard.

– I-I

– All you ever think about is yourself.


Downstairs at the poetry club, a woman taps a small set of bongos and drones about being black. A black man puts on his headphones and leaves.

The woman whose poems you have complimented finds somebody more attractive to talk to.

– And what do you think of Under Milk Wood?

– Only a writer with too happy a life could come out with such fulsome shit.

On the South Bank, schizophrenics eulogise the beauty of the copropolitan skyline. Slice and dice. Chlorpromazine and diazepam.

– But isn’t it such a wonderful place for people-watching? And exciting new developments in art and cinema.

– And skateboarders.


Dazzling hungover snow torn night brutal as a poet; behind him, his love in bed convinces him that he is intact from the windowed world.

– How nice, she thinks. The sky excites. That, and other trash.


– I have a suspicion of the futility of all things.

– Stop being so portentous.

Through the grey city a bus crawls sheltering memories of rain, sympathetic northern girls. But in the d-doom car stereo nightclub, references are to the unknown. Jackets are black.

At the British Museum, Osiris gives an invocational offering to the soul of the revered one.


– My mission is to produce innovative products using only the minimum of materials.

– I like the idea of a piece that can go on as long as I do.

– How do you get young people interested in fighting against capitalism?

– I have an exhibition of self-portraits entitled No Way Out because they, like, lead towards the exit.

– It isn’t happy hour yet, you know.


The night fancied itself. Adhering to a strict dress code, its lights corseted the city in costume jewellery. It spurned men as second class citizens. Lives and words were there solely for its delight, and all the stifling work and hangovers.

– This is the year I died.

– Oh, but you’ve still got your poetry.


– Stranger returning home in the green dusk: in young worn-out years you inclined your head over prescribed texts, spoke easily to possible girlfriends, and houses glimpsed from the passing train inspired myths of domesticity. How did you allow yourself to care?

– Work pays you in neuroses made stranger by the striving to conform. I struggle for the right word like a physicist for the simple formula. And civility is far beyond me.


A desire for identity theft and miscommunication leads us to Covent Garden. Everything dissolves into light and sounds of busked jazz connect with the bend of the girl’s leg.

– Your text was the highpoint of the day or night.

– Good-o.

– Soon the chavs next door will inflict on us all the hairy chests and stereos of summer.

– That’s nice.

The garrulous sexshop owner attempts a conversational gambit concerning Sven Eriksson.

– He must have something.

– Indeed.

– We had a visit earlier today. What you see is what you get.

And there is an emotional charge to the caned secretary.


– If I were a pretentious wanker and took delight in all things, if I were to believe in Art and saw life in the necropoleis of cities, maybe you would go out with me.

– Then again, maybe I wouldn’t.


How to enter the ranks of the most successful people in the world: staggering in mere chemical intoxication around Liverpool Street, impacting multiple geographies.

– If, like me, you think that poetry began with Baudelaire and ended with Mallarmé…

– The sunlight demands an apology.

– I have poured all my faith and cruelty into you.

– Romanticism really fucks you up.


Desperation for sociability results in the company of couples.

– We went to Corfu last year.

– Oh. How was it?

– We loved it.

– Good.

– We had a dream.

– Really?

– We were so worried that our son might not do well enough in his A/S levels to go to University.

– Maybe he’ll be another Einstein.

– In what way?

– Have better things to pass than A ‘levels’.

– Once we were in a night club and went into male mode. Kept getting rejected by younger people.

She puts her hand on my arm.

– Like that. How do you put up with it?

– Either grow a thick skin or give up trying.


Turning, terrified by every detail of your room, like a vampire in a suddenly reconsecrated church – I like this comparison – to death language and political correctness, screaming odes.

– I’m just off for a workshop in networking and pretentiousness with a group of artists and other whores. You can come along if you like.

– I don’t think so.


Folded in creativity like a petulant child, his coat tales trailing clouds

– The fact that you like London says something about you. And it isn’t anything good.

Crisp emptiness of future performance like the relief of cancelled meetings.

– Do what you want.


Standing in a circle of cigarette ends, an old busker croaks about the failure of created worlds, the propaganda of troubadours and feminists.

Secondary, autumn dapples the avenues around the art museum (there is no way in) and its kaleidoscope clarifies into tedium

– the snarling of trains nihilism of i-pods careers of daily death

– I think I might bake a cake tonight.





Robert Yates
Pic Nick Victor

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One Response to Work in Progress

    1. Brilliant! 11/10

      Comment by Dave Tomlin on 30 March, 2012 at 1:16 pm

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