When Battling Rival Poets

A short story by Peter Burnett

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My name is Bryan Pens, the triple gold killa.   I be the most prominent writer of poetry in this country and now I’ma write prose too.   This rippling oscillation of words flows from my laptop, which is lookin’ hella clean since I wiped it with a cloth.

I took my wife out for a meal.   It was our local restaurant.    This is what happened.

I cracked my knuckles on the threshold.   My wife was impressed.  The waiter heard the knuckle-cracking and asked me : who are you?   I said :

My name is Bryan Pens, the triple gold killa, and I’m the leading writer of poetry in this country.   I’ve recently won a major literary prize so no one’s in no doubt about that fact.

When the waiter departed I told my wife how I’d got on at the literary prize ceremony.

The literary judges never saw the like, I said, they bust a lot of other poets’ guts by giving me that prize.   But with my poet control, I took a photo of the globe like a space probe, wrote the words that won the prize and then I was known as the leading writer of poetry in the country, baby.

My wife was all-aglow with love for me, and she peeped over her menu and said:

Every poet is crap compared to you darling.

Yeah baby, I said.   My poems hit the soul like an evil dialect, like the Dead Sea Scrolls of a prophet.   I’m from the tower block and I’ve been writing poems all of my life.   I form my own writers’ parliament, fighting against bad verse for all our freedom, working until I get that shit accomplished.

When the waiter returned I ordered the food and while he copied down what I said, I could tell he was aware of the intricacies of tone which I included in my speech.

You gotta digest what I say, I told him, and he noted that too before he came back with our starters.

Come on let’s eat, said my wife.   Before us were two plates of prawns in cocktail, with salad green and red tomatoes, and onion that matched my wife’s white skin.

And this is when I saw the other poets arrive.   The other poets walked into the restaurant and trailed up, all creepy and morose.   These were sneery, hairy, shabby, scurvy, wordy, baldy poets, and they trailed up to interrupt my wife and our meal.

You must be Bryan Pens, said one of the poets.

I could tell by looking at these poets that they were second-rate writers.   They were small-time, rinky-dink poets, jealous of me and my poetry prize, jealous of me and my style especially since I began writing prose too.

Well yes I am Bryan Pens, I said, the triple gold killer, and now I’m writing prose too.

My wife was red with anger and I looked at her in fear because one day I believe that my wife will go spare and kill a poet.   One day, I thought, she’ll hear some poetry she doesn’t like and she’ll rip off a poet’s neck, reach down and grab a vital organ of her choice — and that will be the end of that poet.

This is my poem said the other poet :

C’mere Walt Whitman, you goddamn piece of fuck

I wanna run over your face with a big dump-truck

And then watch the blood come out of your eyes and nose

Then I’m gonna drop a big rock on your toes

Well I’m huge, you better realise that

I’ve got three bloody rows of teeth like a shark

And I’ll chop down your tree and bite off all the bark

So don’t you make no smart-Walt-ass poet type remark

Cuz I’m liable to go off on ya, bitch.

I looked at the poet.   With his chin whiskers this man was a poet of bluster.   The other poets seemed impressed but nobody else seemed impressed.   I turned to my wife.

Leave him be, she said, but she spoke in vain.

See my boot? I said to the poet with the chin whiskers.  I think it’s time you licked it.   I saw you a mile away dipshit and now you’re goin’ to poet’s jail for interrupting my prawn cocktail.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw my wife’s jawbone masticate and I recalled that I was supposed to be eating my starter, not battling with rival poets.

The restaurant went quiet.   People crushed bread and I salivated for my prawn cocktail.

I’m celebrating my literary prize win, I said, and now I write prose too.   You had Walt Whitman and me bracketed as dead but like Walt Whitman I was raised on milk-soaked bread.   But like Walt Whitman I got to be about four foot tall at the age of five and no one in my town could write like I could write.   I chewed the face off all other poets’ verse.   I was a poet.    Walt Whitman was one too.

The chap with the chin whiskers said : Bluh? and so a second later I kickboxed his ass across the room.   The kick broke shit in this poet’s neck and his body fell into a heap.

My food better not be stale, I said as the chin whiskers poet crawled away, but in the space where the chin whiskers poet had stood, now waited another poet, a self-pitying intellectual poet, with moisture on his lip and a bottle ay Becks in his hand.   From his pocket, the self-pitying intellectual poet took one of my reviews, the one from the Sunday Herald that said how I searched for the truth — and he waved his bottle ay Becks at me.

I’ve got a poem for you, said the intellectual poet, and this is it.   I glanced at my wife.   Her hand thumped the table as the intellectual poet recited his poem.

Aye min fuck dat, and aye min fuck dis

I think it’s time ye wake up and smell my piss

And just so you know who yer fuckin wit

I’m a self-pitying intellectual poet, and you ain’t shit

And you ain’t shit, and you ain’t shit

And you ain’t shit, and you ain’t shit

And if there’s any other poets out there that I missed?

You ain’t shit, and your dog ain’t shit

And your publisher ain’t shit and your cooking ain’t shit,

And Microsoft Spellchecker ain’t worth shit.

And I bottled a boy when I worked for the postal service.

The self-pitying poet finished his poem and his poet chums were impressed.   The poet held the bottle ay Becks in his mouth and chewed his bum cheeks with his hands — and I asked him if he was through.

You’re stupid, he said. Could you not tell that was the end?

I looked at my wife, her face was on the table.   All the poets were waiting for me to show my hand and I did not disappoint them.

Listen, I said to the intellectual poet.   My name is Bryan Pens, the triple gold killa.   I be the leading writer of poetry in this country and now I’ma be the leading writer of prose too.   All my poems are breast pumped out of my laptop from the nipples of my fingers, but now I just want to have my meal a limb by limb, a course by course, and my big shrimp cocktail’s chances of being eaten are getting worse.

The self-pitying intellectual poet held the bottle ay Becks in his mouth.   I moved around him like a Indian doing a rain dance until I kickboxed the bottle ay Becks out of his mouth, jumped up and down on his head doing a brain dance, saying :

Self-pitying intellectual poet ya jerk-ass dork,

I’m runnin through Europe with your head on a pitchfork.  

 Then I kickboxed him again, allowing my foot to break his teeth — and he was dragged away by the other poets — and everybody knew who was the best poet after that.

My wife was staring at her big shrimp cocktail.   The kitchen door opened and fluorescent light shone in my face as I saw a waiter standing with two plates in the bright light of the cooking area.   I played it cool because I knew these were our main courses hovering there, and because the whole restaurant was now expectant.

At the table, I reached for my fork to get on with my big shrimp cocktail.   A mouthful of salad dropped with heaven-ness but a third poet stepped up, a lippy dialect-shouting poet.   The main courses were waiting and I was still within the circuits of my big shrimp cocktail, which I realised would never be finished if this continued.

You think you’re so good with your literary prize, said the lippy poet.   A friend of mine however having read the first edition of your last collection of poems, says that she didn’t understand it.

I stood up and dropped my spoon.   The spoon took long seconds and moments to land on the table, where it lay like a devil’s divaricate before my plate.

My name is Bryan Pens, I said, the triple gold killa.   I be the leading writer of poetry in this country and now I’m writing prose too.    My style is new and flows from my laptop like fruit drops from the salad branches of my garden.   My poetry will bring you under the clouds which are lookin’ hella white since I described them last.   My literary prize is my deservéd right.

The lippy dialect-shouting poet stepped into the centre of the restaurant and took out a microphone.   I attacked immediately and walked the calorie across his face and a minute later the pummelling was acknowledged as a classic by all the diners present, and a round of applause went up for me.

Walking back to my wife, I knelt before her while the poets regrouped.

You’re my one and only, I said to my wife, and during our holy matrimony, you alone will attract my homilies.

Sweet, she said, but look out behind you.

I flipped and slapped the poet that was coming for me. As I continued to fight, other poets flew aside, their limbs twisting as I kicked at them with my proficient feet.   The remainder of the poets ran from the restaurant as the main courses arrived — and the diners applauded me.

I am Bryan Pens, I shouted in glee, the hoisted aloft and piping to the winds champion for the moment poet, the most potent master and literary prize stealing, laptop wielding genius that there can be!

The restaurant applauded, for there was a winner in their midst, a poet who had stolen all their hearts.

The rabble has gone to their post-contemporary blasphemy! I shouted, as my breast of chicken filled with haggis mousse coated in a wholegrain mustard and a whisky essence, arrived.   My name is Bryan Pens, I said, the triple gold poet-chinner, the literary prize winner! I be the leading poet in this country and now I am going to be the most leadingest prose writer too!    Enjoy your meals everyone, for the poetmon is here!    This shitty style flows from my laptop, which is lookin’ hella clean since I wiped it with a cloth.





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