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Poetry by R.C. Thomas

When My Brain Tumour Found Itself

Canada; Vietnam; Papua New Guinea;
straw canopy riddled with mosquitoes
in Singapore; Peru; up all night circling
on the back of a Paso to the Marinera;
toothbrush lost in stoic Austrian mountains;
wash cloth worn down to one large hole in Ireland;
bought a guitar; pretended to play guitar;
hashish in a rainy back garden in Harlow, UK;
took up poi spinning; gave up poi spinning;
slept on a bench in a busy park in Brooklyn;
shouted at pigeons; apologised to nearby children;
worked behind a bar; threw beer at a stranger;
moved to bathroom duty; didn’t like the aftershave;
tried janitorial work; felt lost; took out an ad
in the Lonely Hearts column of a Hamburg tabloid;
my brain tumour’s muddled language translating
as ageless; clean shaven; loose around the middle;
seeking tender nerves, timidity, a gentle soul,
someone to easily put in check mate,
must enjoy darkness and be utterly open
to a wiped-out state of mind; waited by the phone;
spiralled itself around with the curl of the cord;
weeks spent waiting; finally, contenders;
none of them with the depth it was looking for;
too close-minded; too tough a nut to crack;
returned home; broke the bathroom mirror
with one quick soulless glance; Who am I;
who is this; am I; is this; I can’t be; I must;
I look like; I feel like; I’m different;
they’re different; you’re different; must be others;
where are they; where do they go; the light
makes their eyes ache too; am I; must be;
a sense of it about me; ugliness; deranged;
wildness; damage; rage; tumour; tumour;
tumour; tumour; tumour; but where; with who;
for who;’ up all night in a Putney public library;
pulled out the pages of an Oxford Dictionary;
stewed the pages of an Encyclopedia Britannica;
chewed a few entries; not enough salt, spice,
fire, or burning; finds everything but itself;
finds malignant; doesn’t sit right; learned money
is to be made in being benign; Benign Brain Tumours
in a Shortage Close to Crisis reads a clipping
from a newspaper; was it mass media brainwashing;
didn’t matter; had found a calling; This is me;
not too dangerous but too much of a risk;
daring; willing to grow; seven parts trouble,
three parts an easy going character; bitter;
revengeful yet knowing when enough is enough.

When My Brain Tumour Disguised Itself as Human

Psychopath? No. Sociopath? No.
Narcissist? No. My brain tumour
was its own kind of disordered. When it slipped
a mask on to go undetected, fed up with people
looking at it askance, as if it was a brain tumour,
it chose a human mask, androgynous,
liked to try hair out for size, for style,
all kinds of wigs, twisted the strands around
opposable thumbs; anything was possible.

As human, it spoke in spits and spats,
slobbered its way through a sentence
which was more rhetorical or like a demand
than any kind of rational request or questioning.
Its lips quivered as its racing tongue lopped
upon the roughened roof of its mouth.

As human, it elbow-barged its way
through a crowd, tugged at the backs of collars,
passersby were stared down like stones
thrown dead between the eyes. It grew its own
lizard eyes for effect. They changed colours
according to mood. Red, blue, purple.
It knew a party trick to enlarge its pupils
at a moment’s notice, but no one was impressed.

As human, it dressed not for the weather,
but rather for the deed. Where there was gain
to be made you can sleep tight in the knowledge
that it would be there, in shirt and tie or short skirt,
a burlap sack hung at its waist to stuff you in,
a safe at the bottom of its wardrobe back at home
to stash you in for its own amusement.

As human, it learned to text, had found a way
to chain SMS messages together, link after link,
reeling in craniums from all over the world,
push and pull tactics tossing the average civilian
from left to right, until they toppled into its arms.

As human, my brain tumour tried to fit right in.
If it wasn’t for its track record for casualties,
the electronic tag it had been ankled with,
justice, a ticking off for its dangerous games,
you really wouldn’t know any better.

When My Brain Tumour Looked for a Job

What are your greatest assets?’

Exponential growth; gaining weight; hiding
not seeking, undetected, for prolonged periods;
pain; bugging my subject until wetness licks
at their eyes; long distance communication throughout
the entire body; puppeteering; administration;
particularly bookings; particularly appointments;
theatrics; tragedy; antemasque; the art of suspense;
the art of surprise; costume design; masquerading;
Halloween; self-pity; lonerism; rock, paper, scissors,
but I always win; baking; mentalism; the alphabet
backwards; tunnel vision; seeing in the dark
sans carrot; scrunching; balling up; knots;
hammering; handling a pneumatic drill;
playing the gong; the bass drum; the marching drum;
the clash cymbals, babendil, bedug. body percussion,
timpani, zabumba, all heavy percussion; skull;
also the acme siren; deep synth; weighing heavy;
loading; demolition; pushing a wall down
if I think it’s a limitation; flying (never clip
a bird’s wings); but mainly sitting; unbudging;
stubbornness; knowing what I want; diligence;
also negligence; belligerence; ten pin bowling;
pétanque; hitting the jack out of the game; marbles;
the highest bounce on a space hopper ever recorded;
heavy metal; the material not the music; actually,
the music too; sanding; creating an impulse
for an impulse; acting on the impulse; making others
act on the impulse; sounding the alarm; arson.’

Impressive, but I’m not sure we have anything
in your ball park right now.’

Metamorphosis; also metamorphosis.’

The only thing available
is on a part time basis down a gold mine.’

How deep does it go?’

Deep.’

Good.’

There are potential health risks.
It can be very isolating and lacks daylight.’

How much gold can I do what I want with?’

All of it.’

I’ll take it.’

R.C. Thomas

Twitter: @rcthomasthings

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