‘Bodies of the Homeless Hurrying Downstream’ (Vanguard Editions, 2021)
Bodies of the Homeless Hurrying Downstream is an imaginary biography in 17 sections of a 38-year-old stage designer called Carla, just out of a long-term relationship and subsequently living a very sexually risky life. Moving seamlessly between the UK and US, the piece is a tour de force of free indirect style, allowing us full and unfettered access to the workings of Carla’s unsettled mind. Combining the spirit of Derek Mahon's New York Time, Buñuel’s Belle de Jour and Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Bodies of the Homeless Hurrying Downstream is a riveting portrait of a woman in freefall.
Here's an extract:
The Man with the Rainbow Tie
She was fifty feet maybe thirty from the subway entrance
when a guy coming towards her – ordinary looking guy
in a dark blue suit and light blue shirt and one of those ties
might be flowers or rainbow stripes that says I’m not
quite the corporate asshole you take me for – seemed to fix her
with a look as if he was wondering – and this came to her
in a fraction of a second – what it would be like to kiss her
as if he might do it – might step in and block her and get an arm
round her waist and pull her in – she could feel the way
he would come up against her – how his other hand
would go to the back of her head maybe fastening in her hair
holding her steady for the kiss her own hand coming up
the way she’d been taught fingers rigid like a blade
to take him over the bridge of the nose – at which he dropped
more or less at her feet – went down hard his legs in spasm
almost as if they’d really acted out that tussle-kiss
She realised the look had been some sort of fix
like petit mal or maybe he’d felt the first soft quake
of a heart-attack – a circle opened up around him
as people cleared – either looking down or walking on
and she got on her knees because she knew how to do this
checking his airway tilting his head pinching his nostrils
her mouth over his – a faint taste of mint After three or four
long breaths he came back for a moment or seemed to
because she thought he whispered something – though his eyes
had been open all the time unfocused still holding the look
he’d given her a moment ago She kept at it
until the paramedics showed but she was pretty sure
she was kissing a dead man – the ambulance peeled off
into the rush hour traffic and there was a small crowd
round her – like they were unable to let her go
Someone asked – What did he say? Did he say something?
What was it? She said – I didn’t hear – I don’t think
he said anything – she was brushing her knees as she spoke
breaking through to the subway going down the stairs
with a clatter of heels Her train was full of people barged up
against each other – she felt sick – the taste of mint his tongue
slack against her underlip his legs still twitching – he’d said
Calumny calumny calumny – something much like that
'Bodies of the Homeless Hurrying Downstream is a visceral portrait of trauma. From 9/11 through numerous sexual encounters, a lost love, and the mysterious injuries of childhood, the subject of these poems is searching for her reflection in the wreckage of her life. What is most unsettling here is her lack of control; she is displaced from herself, carried downstream by the desires of others and the currents of her unconscious. These poems are vivid, mordant, brutal and overall a warning.'
—Dan O'Brien, author of War Reporter
'How does pain—known, unknown, that comes from witnessing world-changing violence, to banal, everyday barely there brutality—scar a life? How do you live through that? How might it change you? Exploring these questions is at the heart of Jay Randall’s Bodies of the Homeless Hurrying Downstream, a claustrophobic, intense series of long verses. In lines that barely give you room to breathe, the flashbacks and jump cuts that trauma can bring are ever-present, a reminder that the real victory of living is facing down your demons.'
—Rishi Dastidar, author of Saffron Jack
Jay Randall works in arts funding and divides his time between London and New York. His work has appeared in journals and little magazines in both America and the UK, including 14 magazine. This is his first full collection.
pp.74 / £7 incl. p&p (please add £4 for outside the UK)
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