Specters in Amsterdam (a poem)

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

Later, at 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 and grainy leaf
And a younger well-initiated crowd,
Playfully whittling this weakened grey matter,
Nudging towards horrors and incomprehension
And soon I’m trapped in some forgotten 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 epicentre,
Where the peaks of human artistry are matched only by the troughs of madness,
I again plummeted through that neurological realm,
That place where the cast of Freudian epics roam
Minds waving fibrous arms in the dark, seeking some logic
But finding only empty words.
That place where every itch and tic of doubt is warped together in some haunting Picasso
And anatomy becomes machinery – and static arcs surge through face and limb.

Soon I’m lost in a crowd, teeming 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 string and 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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