Specters in Amsterdam (a beat-style poem)

Quick! Let’s ditch sobriety, we don’t have long,
Join the throng who can curb that impending angst,
The silent, scolded masters of a loophole in the mind.
Through smoky neon corridors we stumble
Eyed and ogled by locals who have left that sharp neurotic clarity
For an emerald haze – birthed not from chemical warfare
But from luscious earth crumbs and flecks of salt.
(Or so I told myself…)

Later, by night, as crumbs tumble over crumpled jumper
And the scent is ground into the coarse carpet of bug-infested halls,
Walls rumble with droning bass and pulsating electro-beat.
The first wave was the true trial:
Flashbacks to pages of suicidal drivel on cheap, grainy leaf,
A younger and initiated crowd,
Playfully whittling this grey matter,
Nudging towards a looping world of incomprehension
Trapped and forgotten in some wisp of time,
Cursed by a chain of petty words to ponder for an eternity.
Now I think, “I should have stayed”.

I again began to doggy-paddle out into that psychic vastness
Only now in this brimming aesthetic epicentre,
Where the peaks of human artistry are matched only by the troughs of madness,
I plummeted through that neurological realm,
Where the cast of Freudian epics roam,
Minds waving fibrous arms in the dark, seeking some distant logic
But instead finding only empty words.
A place where every itch and tic of doubt is warped into some haunting Picasso,
And anatomy becomes machinery – static arcs surge through face and limb.

Soon, I’m lost in a crowd, which teems like a whorl of salmon,
And every glance is suspect.
I force down a shriek as tourist maps melt into incongruity
Then the red lights come
And the cluttered exhibitions tap on glass wearing nothing but velcro smiles,
And fear and doubt and disgust and pity swarm these booths like The Lord of the Flies,
And wide-eyed hoodies lurk and whisper offerings of dust,
Synthetic specters slithering through slender cracks in the crowd.
But we escape…

***

NB: Featured image is by Michiel Buijse. You might have already guessed, but I was reading a lot of Ginsberg before writing this poem…

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