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Good old days (1) (if you were lucky enough not to be there)


I’m from Alsace in North East France, as you know (meaning: as I’ve told you, even if some of you’ve never heard of the place before). We’ve been pushed around a lot:

A typical citizen in their late 80s at the end of WW2 was born French, became German in 1870, French between the two wars, German again in 1940 and French once more at the end of his life. By the end of WW2 most people didn’t speak French, but were suddenly forced to. Propaganda machine on full blast: c’est chic de parler français. Chic. And Mandatory. The same teachers who had taught in German during the occupation now obliged all the pupils to speak French.  No wonder we’ve got a complex. Many just refuse to talk about it. In Alsatian, we’d say: redde m’r nimm devon. There’s a term for this kind of large-scale cover-up, I read the word somewhere: obscurantism.

I suppose we all develop our own strategies for dealing with a tricky situation, don’t we?

At the end of the war, some used the Nazi flag to make their local costumes. Very nice cotton. Excellent quality…

redde m’r nimm devon…

The good old days? The clogs of our childhood were the poor man’s shoes: village roads were made of dirt and often littered with the manure of the cattle on their way down to the fields. Clogs were robust. Clogs were cheap. The wealthier wore leather shoes. And of course there were still those who had no shoes at all…

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon.

French mums, they’d go to work (still do!) and think there’s something wrong with you if you didn’t. German mums, then and now, tend to stay at home and think you’re a bad mum if you don’t. It’s their Nazi past. Or should I say: nasty? Keeping women in their place, under control and their pockets empty.

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon!


Definitions: are for people without character

Erotica isn’t the right term for what I do. Could call it high heat… maybe. We’re all being told to do something original, right? On the other hand we’re also told we have to be able to allocate that originality to a neat, pre-fixed term so the marketing wheels can turn smoothly. And there’s always some grump who, once s/he’s read it, wants to sling your work into a category it doesn’t belong to. God, I’ve met enough of those! Leave off with the definitions, will you? Definitions are for people without character.

I only hope she doesn’t go for one of those erotica template book covers when Verses Nature is out. That’d be such an insult. A bit of style to match the man, if you please: no tits, arse or any amount of flesh anywhere.


Now, let’s get down to business. Read this:


‘The basement is everywhere. Water leaks like dark shadows on the bare cement, looking like silvery snakes streaming from the corners of the windows. When it rains you can see the rivers pulsing. Once the little trails reach the floor, they widen as they seep into the floor, heading toward the drain. A corner houses shelves of limping cardboard, labeled by a thin marker zigzag that can’t be read because there’s no light over there. We call this the dungeon and sometimes it’s where Barbie goes when she’s mad. I give the pink corvette a push and she sails into the scary shadows. In the corner by the steps, old sheets and sleeping bags are weighted down on ledges and chairs, or twisted in knots around the hollow metal poles, supporting the forts and tents of our imaginations. We hear creatures in the jungle. I feel the breath of wings. The trees from where the wild things live loom over us in faded pencil scratches.’

The Basement, by Amy Jo Sprague


Beautiful, Amy. No other word for it. The pain, the fear, tussling in/with the shadows. Faded pencil scratches… The use of space…

Had a crappy childhood, didn’t you? Join the club:

My father was a bastard. A violent bastard. He would hit my mother, and he hit my brother and me, too. Once, when I was six…

The boy in the shorts, the belt, the screams, the lash, the fury, the father, the belt, bursting to beat the truth out of the boy on the commode, the belt, the screams,

“It was not me and it was not me, however you may beat me…”

The sweat, the tears, the lash-


The mother…

The belt, on the mother, on the boy, on the mother, on the boy on the commode, on the mother fallen to the floor with her hands round her head, the mother at the feet of the boy who insists…

“It was not me, however you beat me…”


Leather nailed to their skins. Father, wide-legged, up to his knees in the blood, in sweat, in the salt of his fury; of their defencelessness. The sweat that turned to blood that turned to water that turned to the wine of the blood of the Christ the boy was being taught to honour: to love thy father, for thy father loves thee…

The hurt, stacked high like dirty dishes, like the corpses in a common still uncovered grave, fresh insult congealing atop old. The stench courted by the wind and cavorted away so the two may play, may forget; the boy, the tears, the mother, the tears. The shame.

The rage.

The hate.


Where were the stories, where the laughter that was my birthright if They were right? The laughter of communion? There were only sighs, mother breathing out, out, out…

I had to practise laughter like a fiddle, an accordion, pull it apart, make it wheeze like my mother’s sighs, pluck at it, slide across the gut of its strange melody that clung to the crevices of my mouth, fearful of the drop. But because I had been robbed of my birthright, because this right-turned-foreigner was naught to me how easy then to shove it in the back and watch it tumble with an anguished squeal, a noise, unnameable,

untraceable to an origin beyond my birth and her own.


all achievement but a quest for the origin of the (M)other, and being (m)other, frustrating our self-appointed imperative to control, to name –

we call her (M)other, but never by her true name –

we make do with surrogates and are reared to keep that secret: I miss you, what is your name, in truth I have never wished to be weaned, ever… the original, perpetual cry of all sons… to live (what we call Life) is but to long for that other unnameable by which I may see you as you are, at whose communion – unnameables embraced in forgiveness – and only then will there be light, will there be honesty.

What does my mother see when she sees me?

Herself, her redoubtable past thrown back at her is why she does not want to see me, never looks (straight) at me but through and around me, a stone parting the maternal shame of her regrets, I am but a bad memory, cursed mirror to un-suspend, face-to-back in a cupboard in a room no one uses; mirrored darkness, secrets ad infinitum.



…Like I said: Father was a violent bastard. Mother was a lying bitch. She told us a load of bollocks, which we, as children, believed. Looking back, I now  know it was a load of bollocks and that she was a lying bitch. She’d go out at night all the time, to meet her lover. The same lover for forty years, instead of bringing him home to be our father. I would have liked to have had a father. A father, and a family, instead of faded pencil scratches.

(adapted from The Red Room)

The beginning (of the end of the life of a couple)

Madam, in bed
half dead
her skin as thin
as watery as her eyes,
lids seal with blue lines

sleep-denying pain.

I have been sitting by her bedside ever since the ordeal was over.

The nurse lifts herself to her silent feet


She rearranges the heavy covers (heirloom) around the mother’s fevering neck.
Outside, the winter, banished from the room by dark.drapes,
is creeping around the other entries to the house

s s s s s h h h h h h h

and stealing in through an opened kitchen window, where the servants go about their chores in subdued manoeuvres.

It was a boy. The boy was dead. Dead, rotting, and trapped inside that narrow passage-way, for hours

whilst his beloved mother; screaming and thrashing.

Unprepared for any such complications, the doctor sends the nurse to fetch the cook, who,
full of her importance,
there she goes,
bustling up the stairs
yet remembering her manners well enough to throw a mild glance  (and a curtsy) at the master of the house as he –  up and down in the Main Hall.

But the child is dead. A boy.
somewhere on my way I got jabbed and I fell down

The Master snatches his shotgun and marches off to the stables.


Having children’s the beginning of the end of the life of a couple… As a man, you take the back seat from then on. As long as you know this, ‘spose it’s alright.
    Having children massacres a woman’s body… that’s another cause for the beginning of the end. Childbirth pulls her all out of shape n leaves a gaping hole that nobody ever talks about. Muscular re-education classes: what a load of crap! Did your midwife say to you: after childbirth, your tight little pussy’ll turn into a bloody tunnel n when he’s up there, he won’t feel a thing? Oh, didn’t she? I wonder why… You know any woman who’ll ever admit that her fanny feels different after childbirth? Yeah, yeah, it supposedly creaks back into place like an old church door… You can feel the contractions of it, and then everything’s hunky-dory.

Bull. Shit.

    Friend of mine paid a humongous amount to a doctor to make sure his wife delivered by Caesarian…
    She’ll only tighten up again when she’s pregnant once more. It gets nice n tight and it’s great for a man to be in there. Don’t know why so many women feel it’s wrong to have sex when you’re pregnant. It’s great! I’ve treated myself to a couple of pregnant women. Marvellous! Won’t find noffing better. I got onto the womanising track when my first wife fell pregnant. Didn’t want me to touch her anymore. Pas touche? Her loss, not mine. Plenty more fish in the sea, n’est-ce pas? But then the child gets born, and it’s flappity flap all over again… You see those young mums with their great figures; narrow hips, perky backsides? All well n good, but if they birthed naturally, I don’t give a toss how narrow their hips are, there’s a whacking great hole in the middle. And those girls, children you almost have to say; thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, who’re already mums, what a shame. You can write them off for life… Why do you think husbands drift towards anal sex? Cos they want to feel something! Problem with anal sex, though, is that the women take a liking to it, then don’t want it any other way. Yeah, and why do they take a liking to it, hey? Hey? Me? I go the anal way with women who’ve had their children naturally, cos some of them’ve got a fanny on em that’s so loose, fit your whole hand inside. Two even. And clap. Same goes for some backsides, sorry to say…
    Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. It’s probably yours, but you’re still too shocked by what you’ve witnessed to feel anything nearing pride. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again. Ever. But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?

    Well, better trot along with all the others and show him my sad eyes. Like I care.


(adapted from The Red Room)

He hadn’t made the bed (for which he apologized)

SAM_0651 edit

Carmina’s ovulations were a ferocious affair, blocking everything else from view with their white anger, like the child kicking over all her building blocks, the tears searing her face, her voice muddied by the rage that had gathered in a sudden black cloud on a blue sky; brooding and inconsolable.
When Carmina had her ovulation, how she hated men! Hated the men who were absent or inaccessible;
the men who were incompetent, every lover who had ever loved her, good and bad alike, and who had ever left her. She hated every man who had ever shied away from her advances, fear and mockery dancing in his contorted smiles as his feet yanked him back to the cowardly comfort of the commonplace; to the wife no longer loved, but who would always be there, unscandalous. Scentless.

Ovulations meant hate
meant hunger
meant animal
meant howling
meant denying
meant yearning
meant curled up and crying
meant not defying you are …

Ovulation meant donation
meant benediction
meant confirmation of your
woman –

a feasting of womanhood

He hadn’t made the bed, for which he apologized, but it didn’t bother her. She trampled on Her blue sequined slippers as she climbed in and trampled on them once again as she climbed out, not that she had anything against Her, they were just in the way. Sex was good, and though she came several times and got the chance to scream her head off, her passion was shushed by a sadness she didn’t quite know where it came from, or where to put it, so she tried to stuff it into the crease of cloth between the two mattresses with her big toe right foot.

All the sperm She had not been able to summon, splattered all over the sheets now…
As he creamed her torso with it, lamenting all the millions who had got away, Carmina realized she was lying on Her side of the bed, wondered if Her nose was good enough to pick up the spunk and sweat deposited in Her absence. He fed her a clump of it with his forefinger, so she could taste it, properly, not like the last time, when he had exploded into the back of her throat and it was slung directly to her stomach lining, choking her along the way. She twirled it around in her mouth trying to think what it reminded her of…  She thought about the sequined slippers she had trampled on. If beauty were celestial and came looking for us under the mantel of darkness, the wife would be the one to hold the candle without the wick, where had she heard that or something similar? And suddenly Carmina knew why she was so sad some place so soon on into this Wonderful:

for although she had laid herself bare, he didn’t believe a word she said.

SAM_0654 edit

(from The Red Room. Illustrations by L.W. Eden. Copyright © 2014)

She sent him a message: a harmless one

Against her better judgement. She sent him a message. A harmless one: she was having lunch with the children and would plough her way through some work in the afternoon.
She was hoping
he would invite her to come over. She was hoping and yet it was what she feared the most.
She waited… but in the end she brought the girls back to school and drove home. Yes. It was better that way.

Her phone rang.

He said he had the afternoon free and thought she meant she was spending the afternoon with the children.
So, she’s not?
So, she’s at home?
He did not ask her to come.

Can… can I come? she almost whispered.
I’m on my way.

She sat in her room, trying to resist the temptation to write to him, to contact him.
She opened one, two bottles of wine and downed them.
She wanted to live the feeling of being in love; that which makes the world go round.
She wanted to love him;
his freedom, his pride, this glorious, threatening man she orbited round as though warming up to a dare.
She wanted to contaminate herself with the freedom he accorded, knew she was of a similar spirit,
yet she fell short, guilt like a nail pushing up through her shoe.

Her attention kept being drawn to the place her thighs met.
She couldn’t breathe. Squeezed her hand to that troublesome place.
Felt it throb. Brought her fingers to her nose…

She fucked her mattress
every night she found
herself alone.
Fucked the walls, the door edge, the table corner, the chair.
Anything that was hard enough.
Or near enough.


(from The Red Room)

I am as I am: (and who the hell are you?)

I am as I am
I’m made that way
If I desire to laugh
Then I’ll laugh till I sway
I love those who love me
Though it’s no fault of mine
If it’s not the same person
I love every time
I am as I am
I’m made that way
What more do you want
What more must I say?

I love women. I love you. And envy you. And desire you. And take you. I love the taste of you. The feel of you. The sound of you. The thought of you. After 3000 women, I stopped counting…
I am Tatar
Tatar is my name

I haven’t got the looks of André Breton. I’m not a cultural luminary and no way can I do flashy maths like Benoît Mandelbrot. So what? I’m still the one you’re listening to.

There are three of us altogether. My father’s first wife dies of tuberculosis and left him with a son. My mother’s first husband died and left her with a son. My mother’s first husband designed aeroplanes. Died whilst testing one. Because he wasn’t in service that particular Sunday, my mother never received a widower’s pension. She was a real beauty, a hairdresser, from an Alsatian village I won’t name as it’s none of your business. My father was a hairdresser from Strasbourg, looking for a new wife who was also a hairdresser so they could set up a business together. Someone who knew them both arranged the meeting. He drove up to take a look at her. They got married and made me.

Some people think I’m stuck up. Think I think I’m something special. Know what? I am. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary.

I’m here to give pleasure
Not a thing may I change
My heels are too high
My stature too arched
My breasts way too tough
Round my eyes are too parched
But then anyhow
What´s it to you, all of these?
I am as I am
I please whom I please
What is it to you
What has happened to me
Yes, I did love someone
Yes, this someone loved me
As young kids love each other
How to love one another
And that with such glee…

Hang on. Breasts, I hear you say? Who’s this about, then? Her? Them? Me? Wrong on all counts? You decide. Back we come again to that age-old human dilemma: freedom. To continue. To walk away. What’s yours gonna be?

Ok. So you’re that type. Let’s say, at least you think you are. It’d interest me to know if you’re still so sure by the time we’re through.

Me? Had my first cunnilingus when I was three. The daughter of the shopkeeper who owned the Sadna, a chain store like co-op. She’d come to my place after nursery school cos my mum had gone to work and she knew I’d be alone. We’d get undressed and go to bed and have oral sex. Do a real 69. I’d lick her pussy and she’d suck my dick. That’s the honest truth.

Why all of these questions
I`m here but to please you
Not a thing may I change
Nor do I feel the need to.

Freedom. Think you’re free to turn away? You’ll be back. You’ll be back and you can choose, but only from among the choices I permit. There’s a whole lot more I could tell you. Will tell you. I can fill your lifetime with my stories.

You’ll be back.



(partially inspired by Je Suis Comme Je Suis, by Jacques Prévert, translated into English by Joan Barbara Simon, copyright © 2005. Extract from Verses Nature, forthcoming)