Zero and the Black Queen


Standing in the main bar off of Idle Lane
When the doors swing open and the Black Queen
Slinks across the threshold like a working girl on a mission
Long, lean and lanky…
Skin so pale it’s blinding in its brilliance
Hair and eyes so dark you could find yourself lost for weeks
And permanently entangled before you thought to order room service

She looks around the room gauging the effect of her entrance
Spits a wad of gum into a planter
Already dead from the micturations of drunken exhibitionists
Pissing their life away
And zones in on me
With her finely honed sense of the ridiculous

“Got a light Mack?”
I say “no”,
And slide out of my dark brown overcoat
Wrapping it round her
The temperature in the room drops at least ten degrees.
I hunt through my pockets and pull out the “Carp-a-dime” zippo
Cheap fish – “One for the Kipper”
It doesn’t work – flashing flint
Hope it ain’t a metaphor
So I seize the moment
But it’s a slippery little sucker
And is last seen climbing the leg of the matron of honour:
blue hair, crooked teeth
and a face so hard it could crack walnuts if she paid attention.

I start to wonder about
The hallucinatory nature of the mise en scene
Have I been slipped some exotic concoction
In the very recent past?
Has some doc missed a syphilitic diagnosis?
Has the LHC been fired up at CERN –
Dropping me into some alternate universe
Or sending some parallax view into my world for a visit?
Ahh – then it hits – forty eight hours sleep deprived
Recording autoharp for the Morons Pentacular Choir
And parleying that eighteen hour inspirationless interlude
Into a 30 round set-to on the studio floor
With a bank of synthesizers
And digital recorder
I seem to remember recording a thirty minute argument
My upstairs neighbours duking it out
Over whether a dimly remembered recipe
Called for aubergine or artichoke…
My money was on asparagus.
I’m looking forward to working with Charly’s voice screaming
“AUBERGINE you fuckwit!”
Six eight time with attitude…

Nathalia Dzerzhinskaya is watching this dialogue
Crawl up my spine and explode above my head
Like a badly drawn halo.
She lights a Sobranie –
And looks vaguely intrigued.
Seizing the moment I say “Your place or mine?”
“You won’t make it” says our Natty
And drags me to a cheap hotel across the alley

I hold up the wall
while she negotiates for eight hours rent
In a pay by the quarter dive
And gets a bottle of Haitian rotgut thrown in

She drops me onto the bed and says –
“Sleep, Zero – you need it
And I have to write a jingle for your most despised
pseudo cola beverage before lunch tomorrow”
I take a slug of West Melbourne Rum Punch
And slide into a dream featuring a Polish Santa Claus
Extolling the virtues of real cola
Over badly flavoured citrus sugar water
The colour of dead blood
While Natty whispers relentlessly in my ear
“Things go better with…”

I wake up sometime later
Hearing the tap tap of Nat on her laptop
And a faint voice through her headphones
With the distant melodic strains
Of the German national anthem interleaved.
I croak out a laugh
She slides on to the bed
“Come for me, baby”
I mumble in a stylistically bereft moment.
She hoots
And gets off the bed
Opens the door and leaves
“Damn” says I “was it something I said?”
The door opens and Nathalia Dzerzhinskaya
Makes a grand and fitting entrance.
All 6’1″ of her pirouettes
Radiant – lustrous
Filling the space with grace
And a style all her own.
She takes a bow
Then pats me on the head –
Leans down and bites my ear
And whispers
“There, I came for you –

Another slug of Caribbean Fighting Juice
And I’m dreaming again.
I’m in a play,
A leading part,
But it’s in a foreign language
And I have the strong sense I’m missing something
Actually – I think I’m kind of missing everything.
I finally get it
It’s Titus Andronicus
And I’ve been incredibly miscast as Lavinia.
I look pleadingly for the audience
But the fourth wall has appeared
And somehow, Toto
I get the distinct impression
That this isn’t the Globe Theatre.
I look down and see a dissected hand
Flesh and ligaments pinned to the table
Like some alien insect on display.
Relieved that I’ve been recast as Titus
I realise this superb anatomical display is mine
And moving my left first finger
I wonder how the hell I’m going to handle barre chords
At the all-important gig
Booked for later tonight.

The mysterious Nathalia
Stretched out on the bed
Watching me.
Watching her watching me
“Talk dirty to me”
Imagining her smoky accent
Regaling me with slow recountings
Of her erotic adventures
And predilections.
She flips me and spoons in
Snuggles down and cuddles up
A throaty laugh and…

She remembers a time in Northern Australia
Hiking around looking for art and artists
Writing stories and going native.
Out on her own she got caught
Downstream of five days monsoonal rain
Woke up to find herself on an island
Surrounded by an infinite expanse
Of crocodile infested dirty surging water.
In her pack –
A chocolate bar, some trail mix
And John Howard’s hagiography
For toilet paper and firelighting…
Two days waiting for the water to subside
To a huge mud puddle
I drift off to her description
Of a two hour shower
After a days scrambling dash
Back to civilisation
“Snakes on everything!”

Into the periscopic view
Of a saurian amphibious predator
Totally fixated on
And feeding
In no specific order
And not necessarily
Mutually exclusive activities


Back into the light
“What a man!”

Speaking of which
I pad across the room
To spray the porcelain
And rid myself of a days coffee and rum
“Something’s missing” I think to myself
Shortly after wondering “Where the hell am I?”
I turn around and see scrawled across the mirror
In deep red lipstick
“You’re a hoot!
Gone for brekkie with la Brigida.
Brunswick Street!


Note: The Compleat Zero Chronicles can be read here



6 Responses to “Zero and the Black Queen”

  1. Enthralling. Luvverly and funny and noir.

    • 😉 Ta Rosemary.

      It was a really fun write this one. I remember it was a freezing night and I’d caught a fever somewhere. I had four dreams in a row and managed to write them down. When I woke up this poem was beside the bed – with very little editing required. if they were all this easy I’d give up my day job if I had one!

  2. I will bet this was a fun write! I love fever dreams but am not usually on the ball enough to write them down–this was a fabulous write

    • I’m not usually either – fortunately the amount of fluids I was drinking to try and rehydrate helped a LOT… As did the year I spent studying Dreams at Melbourne U back in the eighties. if you can catch a bit – you can catch a lot – just don’t leave it long.

      I also learned that year that dreams are the major access we have to the subconscious – and that being said – I wonder should I be worried?

  3. Well, we should all be worried! But not about letting them out, about keeping them in! Loverly stuff from beginning to end!

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