At the lunch table there is a new man. He has been to Dubai and it is very hot. But worse than that is Vegas he says. He gets very excited about Vegas. You have to step into the casinos to cool off he says. I don’t know how to gamble he says. Did you play the one armed bandits I ask. I played many one armed bandits he says. They give you free cocktails when you play the one armed bandits he says. Before you know it your eyes are cherries, lemons and sevens he says. Another British man sits down at the lunch table. What’s a one armed bandit he asks. A one armed bandit is a slot machine (American), puggy (Scottish), the slots (American), poker machine or pokies (Australian and New Zealand) or simply slot (American). You mean a fruit machine asks the other British man. Yes a fruit machine says the man who doesn’t know how to gamble. A casino gambling machine with three or more reels which spin when you yank the arm he says. And it yanked my arm alright says the man who didn’t know how to gamble. Did you meet the experts I ask. He says he met the experts. An expert uses multiple machines he says. Do you want to try a card game Friday night he asks. The other British man smiles. It doesn’t hurt to practice he says. I lean in a little more closely. Ever since the Chinese doctor I have been looking at tongues. The tongue is a map of the body. A history of the body. It is not what comes off the tongue but the tongue itself. The tongue itself doesn’t lie. The man who doesn’t know how to gamble sticks out his tongue and rubs it behind his teeth. He is beginning to gleek. In general gleeking occurs when an accumulation of saliva in the submandibular gland is propelled out in a stream when the gland is compressed by the tongue. It is also an English card game for three persons played with a 44-card pack. Popular from the 16th through the 18th century. The jig was up. Another hustler. The tongue doesn’t lie.
We live in the biggest city of Europe, in a small flat, in the east, on a public housing estate, in one of the cheapest places in the city, borderline ghetto, borderline rich. Down the road is the financial capital. And up the road is also the financial capital. People come to visit and we pull out the blow up, there is no pump, so they, or we, or both of us, have to huff and puff. They sleep on the floor. The living room is also the writing room and entertainment room. Entertainment consists of a computer screen and internet on a plywood desk, painted black, and chipping at the edges. It is almost the everything room, minus eating (the small kitchen) and sleeping (the ancient carpeted bedroom) and shitting (the mould-happy toilet room). Here is what you hear out the window: woo-woo. The woo-woo is very loud. It is not nee-nah. In France it is pin pon, in Italy it is nino nino, in Russia it is wiu wiu, and in the Philippines it is wang wang wang. The windows require frequent cleaning. They are very black from the busiest road in the biggest city in Europe. On the busiest road, in the biggest city in Europe, there are constant trucks, carrying supplies. It is called Commercial Road. We have fifteen plants, lined along the window, to catch the smog. Plants are part of the battle to keep your lungs pink. Try not to blow smoke on the gums. Blowing smoke on your gums is very bad. Your gums turn pale instead of pink. They turn a little gray. It is best to keep pink. Here is one part of many morning routines: coconut wax swish between the teeth (15 minutes) salt water swish (25 seconds), electronic tooth brushing (3 minutes), cistus tea (anti-bacterial) (10 minutes), sage tea (anti-bacterial) (10 minutes), probiotic with millions of microbes (1 second), Nordic fish with vitamin D (1 second). On the estate there are many satellites to pick up channels from the home country. The home country is the near east, and sometimes the far east, Africa, and sometimes the continent of Europe. To acquire a taste for the new country there is Carnation Street. At the beginning of Carnation Street a swallow is perched on the lightning conductor and the air ripples across the chimney. Carnation Street is very industrial. It is full of pink rollers and marshmallows. This is not the same in all European countries. Or, if the same, less the same. We want to leave the financial capital, the small flat, the woo-woo, the happy mould and live in a non-financial capital. When we move to the non-financial capital, on the continent, and not on this provincial island-slash-nation, more people will visit more often. We will get a bigger blow up, or a small second room, or maybe they can sleep on the balcony. There is much more blue in the new country. The fabric is more sheer. There is more summer there than here.
Marcus Slease’s latest book of poems is Rides. His poems have appeared in the Best British Poetry series as well as Tin House, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Forklift, Ohio, and Conduit. Marcus was born in Portadown, N. Ireland. He has made his home in such places as Turkey, Poland, Italy, South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom – experiences that inform his art and writing. In August 2016, he will move to Madrid and teach English literature at the College of International Studies. Visit him online at Never Mind the Beasts: www.marcusslease.blogspot.com and on twitter: @postpran