These three poems by Mark Vanner explore the absurdity of life told through a series of humorous, subversive, and often unsettling narratives. Mark Vanner’s poems peel back the layers of everyday existence to reveal the small joys that can be discovered in the mundane…
by: Mark Vanner
TATTOO For my fortieth birthday I had a loaf of bread tattooed above my left bicep to honour the Natufian tribe who were the first to harvest grains for bread. Next, I had the tattooist carve the image of a beef and tomato flavoured Pot Noodle across my collar bone to represent consumerism in the modern age. Finally, she etched a blue beard on my face - one I could be buried in and that wouldn’t shave off or grow grey with age. In the next chair I could hear a woman requesting the names and birthdates of all four members of Bauhaus stamped across her breasts. Goths, I said to the tattooist, What are they like, eh?
THE MAGICIAN The barber held up a mirror and showed me the back of my head. I hate it, I said, What about his? Nodding towards the twenty-something- year-old skin-head slouched in the next chair. The barber shuffled towards him and held up the mirror. It’s not bad…a little aggressive, but not bad. What about his? I said, pointing towards the middle-aged man with the pink Mohican. The barber shrugged; lurched towards him, raised the mirror. I like it, I said, I’ll take that one. An excellent choice, said the barber, wrapping the mirror in green gift paper then placing it gently inside a plastic bag. You won’t be disappointed, he said. At home, I carefully unwrapped the mirror then hung it above the fireplace. When I stepped back, the Mohawk-man’s head was gone. Amazing, I thought, it’s like magic… Like REAL magic… I poured myself a glass of wine and reclined on the sofa, not feeling disappointed at all.
RETURN TO BABEL What language will they speak in heaven? Is a question I’m contemplating this morning as the daytime moon lurches high above the heads of the living. Because there are so many languages in the world. And what if everyone speaks Latin or Greek or worse, Welsh? How will I make them understand that the words I have spoken weren’t always the thoughts I was thinking? How will I convey that even in the late Jurassic epoch of my thirties, I was still growing. Learning not to be an arsehole? How will I say that for most of my life I have kept myself away from others not through selfishness or arrogance but through fear of causing harm to others or of others causing harm to me? Will I need to mime in that awkward English-man-abroad way to explain my reasons for not having children of my own? Cheeks puffed out, lips pursed hands expanding as I make the sound of the atom bomb.
Mark Vanner currently lives in Gloucestershire, UK. His poetry has appeared in publications including, Neon Literary Magazine, 3AM, Outlaw Poetry, Punk Noir and many more. In 2004 his poem ‘It Only Hurts When You Walk Away’ was Forward shortlisted. For more information please visit: www.markvanner.com or find him on Twitter: @VannerMark.