Going to the Dogs with Mickey Rooney
He's shrunk beyond his eighty-something years
to less than 5'' 3, which causes some difficulty
because the crowd is dense and loud, and instead
of struggling for a view he wants to start on about
how Laurence Olivier once called him the best actor
in Hollywood, and did I know that when he first
appeared on stage he was seventeen months old,
wowing the audience by tooting a tiny mouth-organ?
He's just not getting this, I think to myself,
I haven't come to Walthamstow to hear about
Our Gang or Babes on Broadway--so I pass him
my binoculars, and steer him in the direction
of the bunny, a white flash streaking the track,
the lashing greyhounds in their numbered vests,
tongues lolling pink, coats glossy in the floodlight
as fresh paint. 'I've got sixty quid on Assistant
Producer' I shout. And Mickey all at once is
clambering onto the bench, waving his arms, crying
'Go on you son of a bitch' like the Brooklyn Joe
he used to be until his mother changed his name
in 1926. Afterwards we'll get a pie and peas,
discuss his wives; perhaps I'll let him play-punch me.
I can't keep awake these days. As soon as I get home I'm
the eiderdown, dozing in my tights, the radio announcer shrinking
to an insect
buzzing with the news of war. If only I could let the politicians
with me they might be pacified, inhale my unwashed pillowslip and
close their eyes against the amber stencil of the window frame. The
Secretary could form a spoon and tuck his knees into the opposition's
Mr President relax his grip and rest a hand there on a Middle Eastern
Together we might chat in whispers of our days, interpreters translating
into open ears: that conference in Karachi that went on and on, crisis
in Belfast and New York. I'll tell of how in Norwich I unclogged
again, sipped instant coffee heavy-lidded in the lull of three o'clock.
of Holland will recount an anecdote in perfect English (the astounding
that punctured talks on agricultural policy). Eventually our giggling
to its end, our ribs relax, we'll fall into the rhythm of each
We'll stay like that for twelve hour at a stretch, arms around
each other's middles,
dreaming not of anything we want because we have it, all there is
What Not to Do with Your Day 1
Don't make another trip to the municipal library
where you try to avoid the overweight librarian
who's spotted you one too many times already and probably
has you in a box marked 'Regular' along with
the man who trails a Tescos carrier bag and gabbles
to the computer, instructing it to
beam him up.
Don't brush your hand along the shelves, depressed
by all the works of genius you'll never read
then meander home through unconvincing sunlight
turning over the same old thoughts.
At home, don't spend three quarters of an hour at the piano
trying to master Leaving on a Jet Plane.
Don't wolf three chocolate mini rolls
or decide a cup of coffee will
'perk you up' then worry the caffeine
is staining your teeth.
Don't turn the examination of your teeth into
a search for errant facial hair
and reason that, since you're not going anywhere,
now is the time to
deal with the problem.
If you have a television set, don't switch it on.
Don't watch an interview
with a 'personality' you've never seen before.
Don't bother with the kids TV show either, the one
presented by a suntanned girl
who talks at you in a shouty voice, as if you were nine;
don't hate her for a long time afterwards for being banal
and well paid.
And as the light finally gives in, leaving you to contemplate
a pile of newspapers from last weekend,
don't decide to have a go at Leaving on a Jet Plane
one last time.
It is nice in the asylum - it smells of peaches all day long. Better
here, with the soft edges of the board games, than out in the rain
that never calls you by your Christian name.
Here there are lights-out by eleven and Cup-a-Soups which you can
help yourself to any time you please. There are no characters in clogs
or white starch overalls--it is not that kind of outfit--instead
there is Mike who keeps a note in loopy handwriting of 'how
you're getting on' and you know that if you asked to take
a look, he'd turn over the file and say 'See, nothing
to hide' showing you his palms. There are no secrets here, even
during sleep; we tell each other everything--Philip's mother
chasing spoons through corridors, Meg's old boyfriend dressed
as Mary Queen of Scots. Tomorrow, we are expecting the begonias to
open, en masse or individually, pink or orange or navy blue: one of
them, at least, is bound to blossom soon.