Paul Askew – The Extremely Abridged…

Paul Askew writes heartbreaking, surreal poems about loneliness. He is the editor of Ferment, one of the most exciting of today’s poetry magazines, a multiple slam winner, one of the masterminds of London Poetry Systems, and a prolific online poet. The poem below is one of my all-time favourites. Marvellous on the page – and performed live just breathtaking

Paul regularly posts poetry on his fabulous tumblr account

The Extremely Abridged History, Present and Future of Paul Askew in 5 Dream Sequences
SCENE 1

I’m Harrison Ford
in one of the Star Wars
films. I don’t know which
because I don’t like Star Wars
and frankly I can’t be
bothered to look it up now.

We’ve just done that bit
where Carrie Fisher says she loves me
and I say, “I know.”
I’m very smug for a man
who thinks he’s about to die.

The bounty hunter guy
takes me into a classroom
from one of my old schools,
says we have to wait here
til someone picks us up
and in the meantime
we’re going to play Ludo.

“Ludo? Really?
Ludo is the most
boring board game ever.”

The bounty hunter holds me in his arms.
The bounty hunter takes his helmet off.
He’s Harvey Keitel.
I’m bleeding from my gut.
I tell him, “I’m a cop.
Larry, I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry. I’m a cop.”

He moans. I’m terrified
of the disappointment in his eyes,
but I feel I owe him the truth.
I hadn’t expected to make friends
with a man like this.

Some policemen burst in.

Harvey Keitel is going to kill me.

* * * * *

SCENE 2

Someone left a dead dog on my doorstep.
I named it Cliff,
took it shopping,
enrolled it in a creative writing course;
it took a particular shine
to the haiku form.

Cliff moved in
and we became a couple.
On his birthday
I took him to dinner.
We went to the opera.
Cliff looked good in a suit.
I’d put on lipstick and a wig
and was pretending to be Cliff’s wife.
We got some weird looks.
I pretended I didn’t care.

On the way home
we had a fight.
I threw Cliff in a skip.
After a bit, I felt guilty
and went back to get him,
but the skip was gone.

I went home and framed Cliff’s haikus.
They covered the walls of my bedroom.

SOME OF THE DEAD DOG HAIKUS

I am a dead dog.
I don’t have a heartbeat or
anything like that.

I used to chase cars.
Now I can’t even chase my
own tail. Death sucks.

A bird pecks my eye
and I can’t do anything
because I am dead.

* * * * *

SCENE 3

ROMEO AND JULIET HAD SEX.

Well…

When I say Romeo,
I mean me, and
when I say Juliet,
I mean you, and
when I woke up
I was like, “Aw…
Aw man… Wack…
Seriously… Wack,”
and I was miserable for, like,
the next year or something.

* * * * *

SCENE 4 (UNFINISHED)

I’m in a hotel room with Ezra Pound.
He asks me what I think of his work.
I tell him that I’ve never actually read any of his stuff.
This seems to aggravate him.
He becomes rather aggressive,
starts shouting at me about his personal life.
I go to leave, but he raises
a stockinged leg up
in front of the door,
blocking my exit.
“Ezra Pound, you’re trying to seduce me.
Aren’t you?”

He doesn’t answer,
just smiles, unbuttons his shirt,
licks his fingers
and plays with his nipples,
because he expects this will get me excited.
He thinks that I’m trapped,
but forgets that the room is on the ground floor,
so the hotel owners haven’t bothered
to restrict how far you can open the window,
because no-one tries to commit suicide
by jumping out of a ground floor window,
do they? I mean,
that would just be stupid.

* * * * *

SCENE 5

I’m on a beach.
I’m guessing it’s low tide
at Weston Super Mare
by the amount of sand there is
between me and the sea.

I’m in my late fifties.
I look like Tony Bennett.
The music from ‘Tetris’
is on a loop in my head.

There’s not much else to say.
I’m just standing,
staring out to sea.
The smell of seaweed
makes me hungry for fish & chips,
but I don’t want to move yet
so for now I’m just standing,
staring out to sea.

I have no idea
how long I’ve been here.
I can hear an ice cream van
drive by, playing
‘Que Sera Sera,’
and I feel like I should be
remembering something,
but I’m not. I’m just standing,
staring out to sea.

The tide’s coming in,
covering my feet,
going up to my knees,
and I think to myself
I should probably leave,
but I have no desire to yet.

And the water goes up to my waist.
And I should probably be leaving now,
but the water is warm,
it feels really nice.
It gives me an erection
and I think of someone
I should’ve given up on years ago.

And the sea comes up to my chest.
And I’m annoyed at myself
for thinking of that someone
I should’ve given up on years ago,
and I really should be leaving now
but I’m not, I’m just standing…

And the tide rises to my neck.
And I’m not scared
and I’m not trying to get away,
I’m just standing.
I’m here,
just…

waiting…

for something
for whatever to just
happen.

And the tide goes back out.
And I have over a hundred unread text messages.
And I should probably be reading them
but…

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