The More a Man has the More a Man Wants

© By Paul Muldoon

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At four in the morning he wakes
to the yawn of brakes,
the snore of a diesel engine.
Gone. All she left
is a froth of bra and panties.
The scum of the Seine
and the Farset.
Gallogly squats in his own pelt.
A sodium street light
has brought a new dimension
to their black taxi.
By the time they force an entry
he’ll have skedaddled
among hen runs and pigeon lofts.

The charter flight from Florida
touched down at Aldergrove
minutes earlier,
at 3.54 am.
Its excess baggage takes the form
of Mangas Jones, Enquire,
who is, as it turns out, Apache.
He carries only hand luggage.
“Anything to declare?”
He opens the powder-blue attaché -
case. “A pebble of quartz.”
“You’re an Apache?” “Mescalero.”
He follows the corridor’s
arroyo til the signs read Hertz.

He is going to put his foot down
on a patch of waste ground
along the Stranmillis embankment
when he gets wind
of their impromptu fire.
The air above the once-sweet stream
is aquarium -
And six, maybe seven, skinheads
have formed a quorum
round a burnt-out heavy duty tyre.
So intent on sniffing glue
they may not notice Gallogly,
or, if they do, are so far gone.

Three miles west as the crow flies
an all-night carry-out
provides the cover
for an illegal drinking club.
While the bar man unpacks a crate
of Coca-cola,
one cool customer
takes on all comers in a video game.
He grasps what his two acolytes
have failed to seize.
Don’t they know what kind of take-away
this is, the glipes?
Vietnamese. Viet-ma-friggin’-knees.
He drops his payload of napalm.

Gallogly is wearing a candy-stripe
king-size sheet,
a little something he picked up
off a clothes line.
He is driving a milk van
he borrowed from the Belfast Co-op
while the milkman’s back
was turned.
He had given the milkman a playful
rabbit punch.
When he stepped on the gas
he flooded the street
with broken glass.
He is trying to keep a low profile.

The unmarked police car draws level
with his last address.
A sergeant and eight constables
pile out of a tender
and hammer up the stairs.
The street bristles with static.
Their sniffer dog, a Labrador bitch,
bursts into the attic
like David Balfour in Kidnapped.
A constable on his first dawn swoop
leans on a shovel.
He has turned over a
new leaf in her ladyship’s herb patch.
They’ll take it back for analysis.

All a bit much for a night shift
to meet a milkman
who’s double-parked his van
closing your front door after him.
He’s sporting your
Donegal tweed suit and your
Sunday shoes and politely raises your
hat as he goes by.
You stand there with your mouth open
as he climbs into the still-warm
driving seat of your Cortina
and screeches off towards the motorway,
leaving you uncertain
of your still-warm wife’s damp tuft.

Someone on their way to early Mass
will find her hog-tied
to the chapel gates -
O Child of Prague -
big-eyed, anorexic.
The lesson for today
is pinned to her bomber jacket.
It seems to read Keep off the Grass.
Her lovely head has been chopped
and changed.
For Beatrice, whose fathers
knew Louis Quinze,
to have come to this, her perruque
of tar and feathers.

He is pushing the maroon Cortina
through the sedge
on the banks of the Callan.
It took him a mere forty minutes
to skite up the M1.
He followed the exit sign
for Loughgall and hatred
among the top-heavy apple orchards.
This stretch of the Armagh/Tyrone
border was planted by Warwickshiremen
who planted in turn
their familiar quick-set damson hedges.
The Cortina goes to the bottom.
Gallogly swallows a plummy-plum-plum.

“I’ll warrant them’s the very pair
o’ boys I seen abroad
in McParland’s bottom, through where
in under God -
for thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate -
where they come from only God knows.”
“They were mad for a bite o’ mate,
I s’pose.”
“I doubt so. I come across a brave dale
o’ half-chawed damsels. Wanst wun disappeared
I follied the wun as yelly as Indy male.”
“Ye weren’t afeared?”
“I follied him.” “God save us.”
“An’ he driv away in a van belongin’ t’ Avis.”

The grass sprightly as Astroturf
in the September frost
and a mist
here where the ground is low.
He seizes his own wrist
as if, as if
Blind Pew again seized Jim
as the sign of the “Admiral Benbow”.
As if Jim Hawkins led Blind Pew
to Billy Bones
and they were all one and the same,
he stares in disbelief
at an Aspirin-white spot he pressed
into his own palm.

Gallogly’s thorn-proof tweed jacket
is now several sizes too big.
He has flopped
down in a hay shed
to ram a wad of hay into the toe
of each of his ill-fitting
brogues, when he gets the drift
of ham and eggs.
Now he’s led by his own wet nose
to the hacienda-style
farmhouse, a baggy-kneed animated
bear drawn out of the woods
by an apple pie
left to cool on a windowsill.

She was standing at the picture window
with a glass of water
and a Valium
when she caught your man
in the reflection on her face.
He came
shaping past the milking parlour
as if he owned the place.
Such is the integrity
of their quarrel
that she immediately took down
the legally held shotgun
and let him have both barrels.
She had only wanted to clean the air.

Half a mile away across the valley
her husband’s UDR patrol
is mounting a check-point.
he pricks up his ears
at the crack
of her prematurely arthritic hip-
and commandeers one of the jeeps.
There now, only a powder burn
as if her mascara had run.
The bloody puddle
in the yard, and the shilly-shally
of blood like a command wire
petering out behind a milk churn.

A hole in the heart, and ovarian cyst.
Coming up the Bann
in a bubble.
Disappearing up his own bum.
Or, running on the spot
with all the aplomb
of a trick-cyclist.
So thin, side-on, you could spit
through him.
His six foot of pump water
bent double
in agony or laughter.
Keeping down-wind of everything.

White Annetts. Gillyflowers. Angel Bites.
When he names the forgotton names
of apples
he has them all off pat.
His eye like an eye of a traveling rat
lights on the studied negligence
of these scraws of turf.
A tarpaulin. A waterlogged pit.
He will take stock of the Kalashnikov’s
filed-down serial number,
seven sticks of unstable
commercial gelignite
that have already begun to weep.
Red strokes. Sugar Sweet, Widows’ Whelps.

Buy him a drink and he’ll regale you
with how him came in for a cure
one morning after the night before
to the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret.
He was crossing the bar’s
eternity of parquet floor
when his eagle eye
saw something move on the horizon.
If it wasn’t an Indian.
A Sioux. An ugly Sioux.
He means, of course, an Oglala
Sioux busily tracing the family tree
of an Ulsterman who had some hand
in the massacre at Wounded Knee.

He will answer the hedge-sparrow’s
with a whole bunch
of freshly picked watercress,
a bulb of garlic,
with many faceted blackberries.
Gallogly is out to lunch.
When his cock rattles its sabre
he takes it in his dab
hand, plants one chaste kiss
on its forelock,
and then, with a birl and a skirl,
tosses it off like a caber.

The UDR corporal had come off duty
to be with his wife
while the others set about
a follow-up search.
When he tramped out just before twelve
to exercise the greyhound
he was hit by a high-velocity
You could, if you like, put your fist
in the exit would
in his chest.
He slumps
in the spume of his own arterial blood
like an overturned paraffin lamp.

Gallogly lies down in the sheugh
to munch
through a Beauty of
Bath. He repeats himself, Bath,
under his garlic-breath.
Sheugh, he says. Sheugh.
He is finding that first ‘sh’
increasingly difficult to manage.
Sh-leeps. A milkmaid sinks
her bare foot
to the ankle
in a simmering dung hill
and fills the slot
with beastlings for him to drink.

In Ovid’s conspicuously tongue-in-cheek
account of an eyeball
to eyeball
between the goddess Leto
and a shower of Lycian reed cutters
who refuse her a cup of cloudy water
from their churned-up lake,
Live then forever in that lake of yours,
she cries, and has them
and squeak
and plonk themselves down as bullfrogs
in their icy jissom.

A country man kneels on his cap
beside this neighbour’s fresh
as Gallogly kneels to lap
the primrose-yellow
The knees of his hand-me-down duds
are gingerish.
A pernickerty seven-
year-old girl-child
parades in her mother’s trousseau
and mumbles a primrose
Kleenex tissue
to make sure her lipstick’s even.

Gallogly has only to part the veil
of its stomach wall
to get right under the skin,
the spluttering heart
and collapsed lung,
of the horse in Guernica.
He flees the Museum of Modern Art
with its bit between his teeth.
When he began to cough
blood, Hamsun rode the Minneapolis/
New York night train
on top of the dining car.
One long, inward howl.
A porter-drinker without a thrapple.

A weekend trip to the mountains
North of Boston
with Alice, Alice A.
and her paprika hair,
the ignition key
to her family’s Winnebago camper,
her quim
biting the leg off her.
In the oyster bar
of Grand Central Station
she gobbles a dozen Chesapeakes -
‘Oh, I’m not particular as to size’ -
and, with a flourish of tabasco,
turns to gobble him.

A brewery lorry on a routine delivery
is taking a slow,
dangerous bend.
The driver’s blethering
his code name
over the Citizens’ Band
when someone ambles
in front of him. Go Johnny, Go, Go, Go.
He’s been dry-gulched
by a sixteen-year-old numb
with Mogadon,
whose face is masked by the seamless
black stocking filched
from his mum.

When who should walk in but Beatrice,
large as life, or larger,
sipping her one glass of lager
and singing her one song.
If he had it to do all over again
he would let her shave his head
in memory of ‘98
and her own, the French, Revolution.
The son of the King of the Moy
met this child on the Roxborough
estate. Noblesse, she said. Noblesse
oblige. And her tiny nipples
were bruise-bluish, wild raspberries.
The song she sang as ‘The Croppy Boy’.

Her grand’mére was once asked to tea
by Gertrude Stein,
and her grand’mére and Gertrude
and Alice B., chére Alice B.
with her hook-nose,
the three of them sat in the nude
round the petits fours
and repeated Eros is Eros is Eros.
If he had it to do all over again
he would still be taken in
by her Alice B Toklas
Nameless Cookies
and those new words she had him learn:
hash, hashish, lo perfido assassin.

Once the local councilor straps
himself into the safety belt
of his Citroen
and skids up the ramp
from the municipal car park
he upsets the delicate balance
of a mercury-tilt
Once they collect his smithereens
he doesn’t quite add up.
They’re shy of a foot, and a calf
which stems
from his left shoe like a severely
pruned-back shrub.

Ten years before. The smooth-as-a-
front-lawn at Queen’s
where she squats
before a psilocybin god.
The indomitable gentle-bush
that had Lanyon or Lynn
revise their elegant ground plan
for the university quad.
With calmness, with care,
with breast milk, with dew.
There’s no cure now.
There’s nothing left to do.
The mushrooms speak through her.

‘Oh, I’m not particular as to size,’
Alice hastily replied
and broke off a bit of the edge
with each hand
and set to work very carefully,
first at one
and then the other.
On the Staten Island Ferry
two men are dickering
over the price
of a shipment of Armalites,
as Henry Thoreau was wont to quibble
with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

That last night in the Algonquin
he met with a flurry of sprites,
the assorted shades
of Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy,
a sanguine
Michael Cusack
brandishing his blackthorn.
Then, Thomas Meagher
darts up from the Missouri
on a ray
of the morning star
to fiercely ask
what has become of Irish hurling.

Everyone has heard the story of
a strong and beautiful bug
which came out of the dry leaf
of an old table of apple-tree wood
then stood
in a farmer’s kitchen in Massachusetts
and which was heard gnawing out
for several weeks -
When the phone trills
he is careful not to lose his page -
Who knows what beautiful and winged life
whose egg
has been buried for ages
may unexpectedly come forth? ‘Tell-tale.’

Gallogly carries a hunting bow
with a bow sight
and a quiver
of hunting arrows
belonging to her brother.
Alice has gone a little way off
to do her job.
A timber wolf,
a caribou,
or merely a trick of the light?
As, listlessly,
he lobs
an arrow into the undergrowth.

Had you followed the river Callan’s
Pelorus Jack
through the worst drought
in living memory
to the rains of early Autumn
when it scrubs its swollen,
scab-encrusted back
under a bridge, the bridge you look down from,
you would be unlikely to pay much heed
to yet another old banger
no one could be bothered to tax,
or a beat-up fridge
well-stocked with gelignite,
or some five hundred yards of Cortex.

he lopes after the dribs of blood
through the pine forest
till they stop dead
in the ruins of a longhouse
or hogan.
Somehow, he finds his way
back to their tent.
Not so much as a whiff of her musk.
The girl behind Aer Lingus
check-in desk
at Logan
is wearing the same scent
and an embroidered capital letter A
on her breast.

Was she Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Artemidora, Venus bright,
or Helen fair beyond compare
that Priam stole from the Grecian sight?
Quite modestly she answered me
and she gave her head one fetch up
and she said I am gathering musheroons
to make my mammy ketchup.
The dunt and dunder
of a culvert-bomb
wakes him
as it might have woke Leander.
And she said I am gathering musheroons
to make my mammy ketchup O.

Predictable as the gift of the gab
or a drop of the craythur
he noses round the six foot deep
Oblivious to their Landrover’s
and the Burgundy berets
of a snatch-squad of Paratroopers.
Gallogly, or Gollogly,
otherwise known as Golightly,
otherwise known as Ingoldsby,
otherwise known as English,
gives forth one low cry of anguish
and agrees to come quietly.

They have bundled him into the cell
for a strip-
He perches
on the balls of his toes, my my,
with his legs spread
till both his instep arches
he holds himself at arm’s
length from the brilliantly Snowcem-ed
wall, a game bird
hung by its pinion tips
till it drops, in the fullness of time,
from the mast its colours are nailed to.

They have left him to cool his heels
after the obligatory
the mug shots, fingerprints
et cetera.
He plumps the thin bolster
and hints
at the slop bucket.
Six o’clock.
From the A Wing of Armagh jail
he can make out
the Angelus bell
of St Patrick’s cathedral
and a chorus of “For God and Ulster”.

The brewery lorry’s stood at a list
by the Las Vegas
throughout the afternoon,
its off-side rear tyres down.
As yet, no one has looked agog
at the smuts and rusts
of a girlie mag
in disarray on the passenger seat.
An almost invisible, taut
fishing line
runs from the Playmate’s navel
to a pivotal
beer keg.
As yet, no one has risen to the bait.

I saw no mountains, no enormous spaces,
no magical growth and metamorphosis
of buildings, nothing remotely like
a drama or a parable
in which he dons these lime-green
green Wellingtons,
a green helmet of aspect terrible.
The other world to which mescalin
admitted me was note the world of visions;
it existed out there, in what I could see
with my eyes open.
He straps a chemical pack on his back
and goes in search of some Gawain.

Gallogly pads along the block
to raise his visor
at the first peep-hole.
He shamelessly
takes in her lean piglet’s
back, the back
and boyish hams
of a girl at stool.
At last. A tiny goat’s-pill.
A stub of crayon
with which she has squiggled
a shamrock after the school
of Pollock, Jackson Pollock.

I stopped and stared at her face to face
and on the spot a name came to me,
a name with smooth, nervous sound:
When she was very close
I drew myself up straight
and said in an impressive voice
‘Miss, you are losing your book.’
And Beatrice, for it is she, she squints
through the spy-hole
to pass him an orange,
an Outspan orange some visitor has spiked
with a syringe-ful
of vodka.

The more a man has, the more a man wants,
the same I don’t think is true.
For I never met a man with one black eye
who ever wanted two.
In the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret
the resident group -
pot bellies, Aran knits -
have you eating out of their hands.
Never throw a brick at a drowning man
when you’re near to a grocer’s store.
Just throw him a cake of Sunlight soap,
let him wash himself ashore.
You will act the galoot, and gallivant,
and call for another encore.

Gallogly, Gallogly, O Gallogly
his name like an orange
between his outsize baseball glove
and ogles
a moon that’s just out of range
beyond the perimeter wall.
He works a gobbet of Brylcreem
into his quiff
and delves
through sand and gravel,
shrugging it off
his velveteen shoulders and arms.


Into a picture by Edward Hopper
of a gas station
in the mid-West
where Hopper takes as his theme
light, the spooky
glow of an illuminated sign
reading Esso or Mobil
or what-have-you -
into such a desolate oval
ride two youths on a motorbike.
A hand gun. Balaclavas.
The pump attendant’s grown so used
to hold-ups he calls them:
Beannacht Dé ar an obair.

The pump attendant’s not to know
he’s being watched by a gallowglass
hot-foot from a woodcut
by Derricke,
who skips across the forecourt
and kicks the black
plastic bucket
they left as a memento.
Nor is the gallowglass any the wiser.
The bucket’s packed with fertilizer
and a heady brew
of sugar and paraquat’s
relentlessly gnawing its way through
the floppy knot of a Durex.

It was this self-same pump attendant
who dragged the head and torso
and mouthed an Act of Contrition
in the frazzled ear
and overheard
those already-famous last words
Moose ... Indian.
‘Next of all wus the han’. ‘Be Japers.’
‘The sodgers cordonned-off the area
wi’ what-ye-may-call-it tape.’
‘Lunimous.’ ‘They foun’ this hairy
han’ wi’ a drowneded man’s grip
on a lunimous stone no bigger than a ...’


© Paul Muldoon, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.

Paul Muldoon has woven several images of a troubled Belfast into this narrative poem, the tarring and feathering of women, UDR checkpoints, command wires to milk churn bombs, weeping gelignite, kalashnikovs and the mercury tilt switch used in undercar bombs for instance. The poem is also suffused with Belfast street patois, ‘skite’ and ‘glipe’, ‘dab hand’ and ‘out to lunch’, for example.

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