Two Poems by Andrew Madigan.
She sits there, quiet
like an accusation
shiny black handbag
asleep in her lap
with both hands
jaw set like a knife
and we can all feel it
adjusts her glasses
every few minutes
hair pulled tight on top.
They told her
a few months back
that she was being fired
just two weeks left
but she still comes
to every meeting
sits in the corner
never says a word
we talk around her
and try not to bring up
the new woman, Sheryl
who's going to replace her
we avoid eye contact
no one sits close
and she never even moves her face
like she's sitting
in an airport lounge
and we don't know each other
we make jokes
when she's not around
but she frightens us.
Today she's wearing
a thick woolen suit
severe in black and maroon
I didn't know they
made them like that anymore
but when I was little
the ancient family matrons
would wear them, with
silk scarves knotted up at the neck
like war medals
my sister and I would
hide behind a table
they'd sit on padded cushions
in a far corner of the room
and wait for you to approach
wheeled in once every six months
for a wedding, a reunion
or somebody's funeral.
Poem Written In a Square Down the Street from Hôtel El Munira, Where Burroughs Wrote Naked Lunch
"Mais non!" you shout. "Arrêtez!"
then a couple of pointless maniacal yawps.
You've got to be tough with street urchins
especially beady-eyed Berber thieves
who can't stop fingering their scrawny beards
and dirty skin, who can't stop twitching.
If you show weakness, you're in trouble
they'll pounce, they'll never leave you alone.
Show them cruel eyes and sharp words.
Hallas. Enough. They'll move on to someone else
maybe the sturdy Japanese girl
with a bright orange pack, looking helpless.
Hôtel El Munira. Tangier. Rue Magellan.
Ten minutes ago, outside the hotel
You can almost see its crooked rooftop
as you search for a trashcan, something
a place to stamp out your cigarette.
Good American manners. Useless here
like your English. Like four years of schoolboy French
(and hints of Espagnol from The Spanish Channel).
You try to raise the few busted phrases you know
but they're worthless, like a broken umbrella.
Instead of a historical marker, a tarnished
plaque, a black silhouette unlikeness of Burroughs,
there's a massive dead fish, size of a boombox
most of the skin and meat gone, just the ribcage
which gives you a pretty good idea
what it must have looked like, once. Perfect.
The smell of spoiled milk covers
the jagged brickwork like a dirty blanket.
Two small men, children maybe, sleep on a bed
of broken glass and ruins of tin can. No
blankets. Just French newspapers and a
tourist's ripped rugby shirt.
Turn around. A mission-style Catholic church
hoists its cement cross. There's a wall
but no door. How do you enter? You don't.
Turn back. Sign says "Always Open"
in English, French, Spanish. You ring the buzzer.
No one answers. Perfect. You try again later
this time a sweating angry man
wearing a translucent soiled tee-shirt
tells you to get lost in a patois of languages you
don't quite speak
but the quick flicks of his hairy hands,
pushing you backward,
tell you what he's thinking.
Next door. The Tangier Inn.
Just a metal gait like the others
these not-quite-hotels, these
squatter shacks. You buzz. No one answers.
You keep walking.
Street kids try to sell you something
every few steps, but you shake your head.
The descent towards the square is steep
uneven winding staircases
and industrial shrapnel all around. An old woman
head in hands
probably asking for money
squats outside the Pension Majestic. Right.
Perfect. Two men sleep by her side.
One rustles. The other might be dead.
Hard to say. The one stands up, shirtless
ribcage jutting out like the fish.
Same smell. Perfect.
You look back at Hôtel El Munira.
There's an open window. Was it his?
You look at the skinny man and compare
him to the dead fish. What would Burroughs
have done with all this? Something strange and nasty.
Dead fish on tenterhooks, dead boys, military
testing facility. Gutted manflesh on
operating tables, swimming in laboratory
Another hustler approaches. "Aargh!"
you shout, or something equally incomprehensible. You
can't even remember the simplest French
anymore. A frail, ragged boy eyes
your American cigarette, your wallet
your something. You scream. The kid
backs off, turns, walks off, leaves you.
Andrew Madigan writes from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates: I've published poetry, short fiction and creative non-fiction. My work has appeared in The North American Review and I'm the poetry editor of Arabia Review. I've also co-written an independent film that was produced in New York. For the last several years, I've been working my way around the world-the Middle East, South Korea, Tokyo, Okinawa, and exotic Northwest Ohio. Currently, I teach English Literature at Zayed University, a government school for Emirati girls, who are all veiled and cloaked in black silk.
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