…“We shall make her one of us.
A loving cup: a loving cup!
We accept her – we accept her –
We accept her – one of us!”
Chant at the Wedding Feast: Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932)
Beneath low-wattage fairy lights
A cortege of cutlery makes its stand –
Plastic, of course, to avert the risk of murders.
The glasses are Tupperware, to forestall slit throats.
Propped on mortician’s Formica, a dead man keens: with
Glacé eyes – fulminating smoke (somewhat like a kipper).
The radio squalls, promising us crucifixion by the ears.
See, that’s the boon with palliative care:
You can rope them together in a big stall,
Knowing that, next thing, they’ll all be mates.
Down at the Friends’ Lodge
It is presumed that inarticulacy precludes self-pity.
The truth is, to be vanquished is to know when
You can expect no better.
There is the resignation not of stoics, but of necessity.
“Can I have sunk to this?” Oh, this and worse.
Here’s jingling bells, yet not enough juice for a decent ECT;
Here’s bunting, but not enough to hang oneself;
Nor one true blade for self-execution.
Here is the shell of celebration – or rather, the canker,
Propelled beyond the orbit of a cosmopolitan society:
A halter, tight enough to choke the scream;
And carers, unctuous in compassion.
Here, in bilious unfrivolity, is the midnight watch:
Ninth Circle of the Damned, frozen upon ice;
Against bare stone, a life sentence of marking time.
Stephen Jackson Christmas 2005
A friend who used the service invited me to the Christmas Lunch at the Friends’ Lodge of a large psychiatric hospital in Hackney. The infamous “Freaks”, of course, was Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s response to Universal’s “Frankenstein”.