Prelude, or Man on the Street by A. N. Gretly

​Here you have it. Well, that is if you’re still keen on knowing the particulars of a typical night on these sordid streets.
I wonder if you can see it now, how things change through time. We sit together in the same old café with the aroma of old books and stale coffee mingling with the murmurs of those who speak of flowers growing out of people’s heads, and dancing amidst field of blooming dandelions while at the same time you find them in the small hours of the haunted night with the doors locked and the shutters down and the lights out, you find them twisting and turning inside their own minds with rotten brain slime oozing out of every facial orifice. But I am getting ahead of myself. A head.
Look here, now. See the man walking, limping. Shuffling his footsteps. Torn brown boots, old coat caked with mud and other silt-like substances. Yes. Do not look at the man that drags his legs along the pavement, with the stink of theft and junk hovering around him almost in fumes which refract light, distorting the image of the man to the point of abstraction. And here you have a concept of a human being walking about the empty streets with eyes bloodshot and half asleep, looking at nothing in particular, and having nothing look right back at him with a sly grin that triggers fear and sexual desire. The footsteps click-clack on the cobble stones, ticking away and pronouncing the end of time. Don’t look!
“But what time does the end of time start?” He says in a high piched voice “I’ve got to g-go!”
“Happy hour?” I reply.
And I think of that old boy from Cork sitting on a broken stool at a dirty pub, cradling his fifth pint while singing about a Monaghan boy who lost his wife to the drink and the whores and the fairies as the fiddle plays on and on and the old whistle fades all melancholy. And time goes on, and you can waste it sitting at the foot of Arthur’s Seat smoking something or spending your last copper on the girls at the Triangle but the voices keep at it till dawn and you walk down back and forth on the Grassmarket where you hear the ghost of old Maggie Dickson, and on Cowgate where you can find my sense of self respect in the gutters, looking for a fix of something or another. Anything. Bumping into women with faces like ancient battlefields; bless. Bliss.
“You o-kay, pal?” Someone asks.
But who is this Paul?
And you muffle something and keep on going, racing, racing time itself because you know if you stop for one single second, the Fear will hit you hard, and you sweat and you shiver, and you stare at all the wild dogs like yourself chasing that white rabbit, rabid, raw.
And the fog engulfs you whole and spits you out covered in gore but the rain washes out anything and everything down the gutters and into the sewers where the demons still roam the night, and who knows, maybe someone will say something and make it all go away at some point.
But soon things settle down into a monotonous hum, on the pavement or at the casino or on someone else’s couch. And that hum carries the weight of the world with it, and you are nothing but a fragile piece of skin, and you know something broke inside of you but you don’t know what it is. You open your eyes and you are back from once you came, with that Cork boy, in that dirty pub, on that lonely lonely night in the City of Ghosts.

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The Hounds of Blair Street by A. N. Gretly

Mist rolls down the street on black-fanged high heels, all click-clacking footsteps and kerosene eyes with the sound of sozzled giggles bouncing off the ancient bricks in eternal vibrations that ripple through the smoke and hover about like wretched ghosts of long nights forgotten in the translucent fumes of yesterday.

And this dewy petrichor of immortal rain intermixed with the aroma of cigarette smoke and stale beer seeps into runny nostrils as the old clock-tower strikes twelve bongs while the skeletal homeless man sits in Hunter Square like a weary rendition of the Buddha, once radiant, golden, proud, now red faced with yellowish teeth, and tobacco stained fingernails that scratch and scratch a retreating hairline and lost memories; woe to him.

And I stand there, peering at this world, watching the hounds of Blair Street through my CCTV eyes, waiting for something to happen like I always do, and time, oh, the time, it wobbles about through the ever growing crowd, and the people spit and shuffle and talk and laugh and laugh and laugh with knife gash grins on their drooping faces as they sing raspy love songs of empyrean beauty, but all I hear is static, as if the entire world was caught between two radio stations; welcome to the City of Ghosts.

Written at the City Cafe,

Blair Street, Edinburgh

27/9/2014

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Top of the World by A. N. Gretly

I stood at the top of the world, and I pondered all the lives, all the stories that have been told, and the ones that are yet to be written. Scribbles on worn parchment, scroll after scroll, the ink still wet, black in colour, all these words that do not tell lies but secrets unspoken, hidden in bottles lost at sea. And I see, I see everything unravel into lucid plots that speak clearly of the things that were once whispered in the dark, now revealed, naked for all to see. But no one is there to witness this, only I and I alone. Oh, that does not make me special, or even slightly lucky, for I am but a humble human, cursed by knowledge of what creeps the streets at night. I stood at the top of the world, and I pondered all the lives, all the stories that have been told, and the ones that are yet to be written. I have had a vision like this once, of a humongous wave of humans rising over the horizon, blocking the sun, and those faces, those sordid faces twisted in hangman knots that sliped over and over again, and I heard lives snap, I heard dreams suffocate. Now, this city is spread before me, and I feel the vibrations of the earth beneath my feet. I stood at the top of the world, and I pondered all the lives, all the stories that have been told, and the ones that are yet to be written; a wave is coming.

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Stairway to Nothing by A. N. Gretly

Rocky stairway of time, where the world and all its grievances boil down to nothing, I wait. I see the humour, the comedy of existence, such a grave joke. One after the other. Funny the way things are, like they have always been. And as I wait for something to happen, I hear the old tales over and over and over again. Of the brave hero, of the mighty beast, of the fair lady, of the kiss in the dark. Swords clink-clink against each other. And the moans and the groans. Slash them all. But the hero is a fake, the beast, one of many, the princess, a sassy drag queen, and the kiss, the kiss is but a venomous dart that pierces my tender skin. Such bitterness. Rocky stairway of time, where the world and all its grievances boil down to nothing, I wait. Tick-tock the clock goes, as the empyrean sun encroaches your virgin corneas, and you stagger about, way too sozzled, and you stumble, and you fall with your face in this sordid earth. Another day, another day. But the fight won’t quit, the fight goes on. You embrace your insidious pain, you hold it deep inside of you, and you let it brew until it becomes the force that drives all your actions, you leave this ache to ferment until you become I. Rocky stairway of time, where the world and all its grievances boil down to nothing, I wait, contemplating that first step.

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The Bridge by A. N. Gretly

I never forget a face, nor a well woven lie; water under the bridge. A plash that rippled the still waters of my heart, and the waves, they carried everything to some distant shore, desolate, and grim. And the railway train took me away to a far away place in which I have found the remains of a forgotten future so vividly displayed like artefacts that were once of great value, now worth nothing at all. And the bums, they hover around like ghosts, droopy eyed, junky eyed, mad! But time doesn’t stop for anyone, or anything, it only halts at the very end, when it is too late, boy. The voyagers stopped and stared in bewilderment at the sights unfolding before them, they beheld the intimate details of the complexity of this grand structure, but even such things whither with time, they fade away at some point, leaving only traces of what once was. I never forget a face, nor a well woven lie; water under the bridge. I have missed him, the man in the long black coat. Even though I have known him for so long, I now fail to define his importance, his significance, sometimes I think he is my companion, other times I thing he is a darker version of myself. Oh, it does not matter any more. And as I stood under the bridge, I saw him limping across the street towards me, his face, still as pale as ever, as if he’s been bleeding for some time. This is it then, once again, we are united as one. I never forget a face, nor a well woven lie; water under the bridge; here’s to you, love, here’s to us.

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Traveler by A. N. Gretly

Dry lips, sun licked face, wandering alien lands. Frying pan hot sand finds its way inside your worn boots as you stagger across the never ending land that spreads in every which way without a single sign of life or even memories of life that once was, just sand and more yellow sand. Empyrean recollections model themselves inside your mind, bending this way and that, and you lust for them, and you lust for them, you lust for them so much that you begin to drool, but of course, your throat is as dry as old bones that were left in the sun, or buried deep in the sand. Raspy love songs of yesterday play in your ears as the memories continue to bombard each other, forbidden fruits dangling from forbidden trees. Dry lips, sun licked face, wandering alien lands. And now the wind picks up, and your lips crack, and your heart breaks, and the storm howls at you, all of you, only you and no one else because you are alone and desolate, you are weary, your footsteps slow down, your footprints quickly disappear in the sand like apparitions wafting about in the land of the living, ghosts now long forgotten in this vast and mighty expanse. Dry lips, sun licked face, wandering alien lands. And you ponder your grave to be, and for some reason, you wonder if there are as many stars in the cold night sky as there are sand particles in this godforsaken desert. But that thought escapes and hides from all the sun boiled others, because wonderment is not allowed here, dreams are not accepted. Dry lips, sun licked face, wandering alien lands; it’s a long way home.

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These Hallways by A. N. Gretly

Staggering these hallways once more, walls plastered in madness, I wonder. Older memories have darkened the walls with filthy footprints of those who have lost themselves long ago, but found something to clench on to in their own wicked minds, something that growls and gnaws, something that snaps its rabid jaws and drools down its scarred chin, and the sick yellowish saliva matches the colour of its bulging eyeballs, and its tobacco stained fingernails. Staggering these hallways once more, walls plastered in madness, I wonder. And I hear them now, those incoherent mumbles that linger in your mind even though you strive to ignore them, and the screams, like sharp claws scratching the insides of your skull, leaving horrid markings like the ones left within Nazi gas chambers, and the sound echos, it rebounds off the once white walls like a stray bullet that finally gets lodged into your weary heart. Black blood oozes from your wound, tainting your straightjacket crimson, a jacket worn by many others like you, but you do not mind, not at all, for you welcome them on your skin, you welcome their ghosts inside your pores. Staggering these hallways once more, walls plastered in madness, I wonder. And I peer now at these corridors, empty, desolate, but alive with tell-tales of the ones who walked through them at one point or another. Bug-eyed, mad, beautiful. And the neon lights buzz their insect buzz, like they did before, and I am lost in this abyss at the end of the tunnel. Staggering these hallways once more, walls plastered in madness, I wonder; this is it.

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