It’s Friday night and the monster between the trees leans closer, sniffs our pain, laughs a hundred fireworks. We listen to drunk neighbours through the dividing chimney, they hate me because I don't go to work in a factory. ‘I work seventy hours a week!’ he screeches at his family, and when he stumbles down the garden path I'm slumped by the pond, staring at my hands, heavily medicated. His kids call him an evil pig, his wife sobs when he drinks, sometimes it sounds like he's pulling his house apart brick by brick and screaming that it's all because of me. I imagine his head is full of machines machines machines. I guess I'm rubbing it in somehow, with my pill box shuffle, sunglasses on the wonk, watching ants for hours. When the police take him away I wonder why it matters. His yellow work van like a giant crayon in the rain. His wife's car like a donor kidney by the black bins. The sad sounds they make through the dividing chimney, the foul smell that drifts out of the dividing chimney like a demonic presence, late at night, when we're spooked. I tell Katy I'm certain her parents hate me for the same reasons our neighbours hate me, and my folks disappointed as ghosts, chanting work work work, boy! My GP swivels to face the trainee nurse, he says: 'Bobby is a recovering addict, bipolar, struggling to fill the void.' He sends me away with tiny skulls in silver packets. Most of the time I tell people I'm doing my own thing, which means benefits, I'm afraid to say I'm on benefits, coffin head, dancing manic dirt magic benefits, medicine leaflets, side effects, a life sawn in half by benefits and the so-called happiness they bring to sofas, spliffs, broken beds, frozen pizzas; a vision of myself hanging in the attic as the dividing chimney sighs seventy years of dole dust: get a job, if you can't get a job at least pretend to go somewhere, leave the house with purpose, wear stinky trainers, kick your mental illness like a muddy football, like a pile of empty coke cans, like the stupid dog that it is, shitting all over the house, barking all night long because it doesn't know anything except for barking all night long at the beautiful benefits of worried love; the beautiful benefits of the dividing chimney, the way sound gets all screwed up in the dividing chimney: I can hear the man next door calling me a cunt because I don't work in a factory, his voice like scrambled eggs, his wife begging him to go to bed please go to bed I'm scared. It matters so much to him, it matters so much to her parents and my parents and the local newspaper with depressed men’s bodies dragged from canals, pig heads and trotters tossed on Muslim lawns, food banks, blood banks, car crash, cheeky wanks, stabbings in the park where my daughter picks flowers, dealers on the corner where the sun dips down and out, every window is a bloody cross on a white flag and everyone is telling us to leave, telling us to work in a factory for seventy hours a week, our neighbours hiding in the dividing chimney, plotting, breathing old soot, calling us faggots, freaks, desperate in darkness, whispering: ‘Shut the fuck up, it's time to light the fire.’
Bobby Parker's writing has appeared in a wide range of magazines in print and online. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from the Society of Authors. His controversial poem Thank You for Swallowing my Cum was included in the poetry anthology Best British Poetry 2015 (Salt). Bobby’s debut poetry collection Blue Movie is available now from Nine Arches Press.