Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

Four Poems by Christopher Barnes .

Asbury Park Theatre April 30, 1929

“The Little Show” opens
On the digs of a Harlem callgirl,
Half-glimpsed smoke smeared walls,
A tawdry ragbag quilt
On a rockbottom bed,
A rusty tin spittoon.

She slips in,
In a port-red poplin dress,
Touches on lip gloss in the chinked mirror
Of a tatty chiffonier,
Tumbles off a wad of greenbacks,
Settling fifty-fifty
In the squeeze of her garter.

A clip at the door,
Cue in the panderer in the Mayfair suit,
Payback time for Johnny Cool,
But it’s thin bucks,
She gets a trouncing and he
Pats up black satin,
Clawing out the wherewithal,
Pulling out stage right.

She splays a hooped mouth,
Growling with a husky tongue,
Rattling out her demons one by one.

(based on an excerpt from Libby by Milt Machlin)



At Queensbury Mews West

The night-house bulb spangles across the wall,
Visualize its candour, a clear beam.
On what tabloid splotch does it glitter,
What amputation plate, movie-still close up?

It shafts, crinkling to the floor, absorbs more creamy
Over offerings of colour supplements,
A deal of foursquare prints
Laying down photographs of contorted faces
In varying degrees of stress.

How can I witch-doctor an earth of my own, I am
Francis Bacon, the painter, fondling the rivets
Of the bed, musing by the river of creation.

My gouaches are body-fabric objects, add-ons
To a globe which subsumes mobs of portraits.

I’ll filter late hours, grip my heart
To natural silence. A slug-a-bed slouch,
Waiting to snatch the admissible image
To pounce on the merest blur.

From the Francis Bacon poems


A Billionaire Talks To Frank McCulloch After Two Decades In A Dark Room

“I keep in fair shape,” the muttering of Howard Hughes
dwindling long distance,
a low-volume tremble over three States.

The palpable clod of the Henry Moore
Dispels the journalist’s vigilance, dancing light,
Squab weight and the hard feeling between
Sinuosity, straight bars.

The eye is a swirling globe
Soft-hued my moonscape, a thin wobble;
The radix of its driving force
Seeming to wriggle through cast concrete.

“Not great, not as good as I should…I mean
I’m not in any seriously disparaging – that’s
Not the word.”

Star clusters, an electric vapour rolls out
Describing Manhattan skyline,
The sun before it. A nose, compressed,
Slopes in passing shadows, mouth
Pitched into the face, a slit through plum.

“What the hell is the word I’m looking for?
I’m not in any seriously derogatory – “

A slow falling of gloss down neck glands
Shaping an impulse at each breast.

“That’s not the word either, I’m not in any
seriously deficient – now that’s the word. I’m
not seriously in a deficient condition.”

Then all empty space went night blind,
The reclining figure lost its rules
Like the head of the old Howard Hughes
And the memory of it.

From the Howard Hughes poems



A Bundle Of Nerves

Brainstorm your limitless fear. The one
That makes you whimper like a bouncing baby.
The pressure of legs, hair alive to cold sweat,
The verification of a Pavlovian response.

I’m confined to the porch
Cutting no ice at either door,
Snared by a mother’s bullying hand,
Boiling as the foot-spinner
Squints a tilt in my eye,
Shuttling along nylon webs.

Trembling takes the shape of jelly,
Panic an essential obsession.

It might be next week
Or twenty years in the wide-angle of time.
Spiders –piss away the fact
Down a spluttery bath,
Whit hear wobbly.

They watch with clockwork scowls
As they starve in upturned glasses.

I’m unfit to enter rooms alone
Where the arachnid gods wait
And bid for magic
From no one in particular.
Daydreaming – a flat spin
Blown from the core of a fist.
Make a wish – death to false scorpions.


Some bio details for Christopher Barnes:

in 1998 he won a Northern Arts writers award. In July 200 he read at Waterstones bookshop to promote the anthology 'Titles Are Bitches'. Christmas 2001 he debuted at Newcastle's famous Morden Tower doing a reading of his poems. Each year he reads for Proudwords lesbian and gay writing festival and partakes in workshops. 2005 saw the publication of his collection LOVEBITES published by Chanticleer Press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh.

C.B. also has a BBC webpage and (if first site does not work click on SECTION 28 on second site.)

Christmas 2001 The Northern Cultural Skills Partnership sponsored him to be mentored by Andy Croft in conjunction with New Writing North. He is about to make a radio programme for Web FM community radio about his writing group. October-November 2005, he entered a poem/visual image into the art exhibition The Art Cafe Project, his piece Post-Mark was shown in Betty's Newcastle. This event was sponsored by Pride On The Tyne. He has made a digital film with artists Kate Sweeney and Julie Ballands at a film making workshop called Out Of The Picture which was shown at the festival party for Proudwords. The film is going into an archive at The Discovery Museum in Newcastle and contains his poem The Old Heave-Ho. He is working on a collaborative art and literature project called How Gay Are Your Genes, facilitated by Lisa Mathews (poet) which will exhibit at The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University before touring the country and it is expected to go abroad, this will be funded by The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute, Bioscience Centre at Newcastle's Centre for Life. He was recently involved in the Five Arts Cities poetry postcard event which exhibited at The Seven Stories children's literature building. In May he had 2006 a solo art/poetry exhibition at The People's Theatre. See their website

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