after James Tate
I woke up and there was a man I had never seen before standing in my room at my window looking out. “Come here”, he said. “Come take a look at this”. The way he said it made whatever he was looking at sound pretty interesting, so I went over and had a look. Out on the grass, there was a monkey engaged in a duel with a pharmaceutical salesman. Behind them, on a neighbour’s lawn, there was a pterodactyl engaged in a wrestling match with a mountaineer. The guy turned to me and said, “you think that’s crazy, take a look at this”. He led me over to my sink in the corner and said, “have a look down there”. I peered down into what seemed to be a flooded motel on Highway 61. There was a woman swimming around. She swam up to the plughole and shouted, “I’m looking for Jake, have you seen Jake?” Neither I or the man had seen him, and we were really honest about that, which I think she appreciated. We left her to it, wished her luck and were on our way. It seemed the man was leading us over to the wardrobe next. I knew exactly what he was going to show me and said, “Look, if you expect me to sit through a production of Chekov’s The Seagull with all the characters played by rodents again, you’ve got another thing coming. I did it once and that is two and a half hours of my life I am not getting back. I couldn’t even get an ice-cream at the interval, which niggled me most of all.” He said “no, not that, you idiot. Here” and led me past the wardrobe and over to the mirror. Looking back at us were these two men in their early thirties. There we were, with popsicles coming out of our noses and rainbows out of our eyes. We seemed to be joined at the hip by some kind of pink candy-chain and had slush puppy for hair. This was the last straw for me. I was out. I chewed through the candy-chain that had grown between us, as I had had quite enough of his nonsense, pushed him away and went back to bed. When I woke up, he was gone and everything was back to normal, apart from the woman looking for Jake, whose voice I could still hear coming from the plughole. Years later, I remembered that I was Jake. But by then, she had stopped shouting.
Vik Shirley is a UK poet and writer whose collection, The Continued Closure of the Blue Door (HVTN), pamphlets, Corpses (Sublunary Editions), Grotesquerie for the Apocalypse (Beir Bua) and Poets (The Red Ceilings Press), and book of photo-poetry Disrupted Blue and other poems on Polaroid (Hesterglock) were all published 2020-2022. Her chthonic sequel to Corpses, Notes from the Underworld, is forthcoming from Sublunary Editions and will feature illustrations by Joshua Rothes. She has a PhD in Dark Humour and the Surreal from the University of Birmingham, is Associate Editor of Sublunary Editions and co-editor of Surreal-Absurd for Mercurius magazine.
image: MM Kaufman