Monthly Archives: September 2015

Bismillah Barbers

BISMILLAH BARBERS

is next door to Bismillah Butchers.
I do hope the barbers are not butchers
of people’s hair. They are near
the railway station, and I walk
past them frequently, on my way there.

I think of the well-known mondegreen
in “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen:
“He’s just a poor boy, from a poor family;
spare him his life, for his pork sausages”.
“Bismillah!” is also in Queen’s verse,
repeated, strongly; uttered as a curse,
reeking of sulphur and damnation.

I am no longer in need of the services
of Bismillah Barbers, but I do fantasise,
idly, about Bismillah Butchers:
how they are staffed by fiery fanatics,
seething to work their devilry upon
unsuspecting customers, who walk in,
innocently requesting half a pound
of their best pork sausages . . .

In reality, I am sure they are kindly
people, most attentive to my butchery
requirements; willing to spare me my life,
for my pork sausages. And, in any case,
if the wurst came to the worst,
and a need for redemption or purgation,
the main mosque is nearby, in a
convenient location.

As followers of this blog know by now, my favourite time for reading anthologies of poems is whilst relaxing in a warm bath.  It was during my bath time reading a couple of weeks ago that I came across an interesting poem by Christopher Reid called “The Café”.  I started musing about cafes and shops, and immediately thought of Bismillah Barbers and Bismillah Butchers.  I have often thought about writing about them, but it was only when I suddenly remembered the misheard lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I realised I could concoct a poem that linked the two factors together.

I hasten to add, in these times of “Islamophobia”, that the poem is intended to be a mildly amusing entertainment, and the activities described in the penultimate verse are merely part of the droll fantasy.

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Curtain of Blood

CURTAIN OF BLOOD

Rising up from the washbowl,
I grabbed the towel, to dry my face,
looked in the mirror, and paused.
A new character had taken my place,
to horrified silence, no applause.
A curtain of blood had enclosed my left eye;
I had become a blood-engorged ghoul.

A silent, internal explosion;
I stared at the burgeoning gore.
An inner vessel burst, but how, and why?
All had seemed well, just seconds before.

I waited, in stasis, wondering: would
the seeping, enveloping curtain of blood
run out of the eye, in unstoppable flood?
I’d be a walking nightmare in the street;
the grotesque eye of a misshapen freak,
the tracks of some crime, coursing down my cheek.

Still I stood and stared in the mirror.
Still I stood, amid dwindling hope.
My lifeline now more precarious;
unseen dangers fraying the rope.

“Curtain of Blood” sounds quite a dramatic title for a poem, and it describes an incident which seemed quite dramatic to me, at the time.  I was in the bathroom; had just splashed water over my face, and was about to dry my face with a towel.  Suddenly, my left eye was flooded with blood; and the blood showed no signs of going away.  It had never happened to me before.  I had recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and had been taking pills for this, prescribed by my doctor, for about a week.  My first reaction was one of alarm, and fear that some inner blood-vessel had burst.  This was swiftly followed by a conviction that it was connected to the pills I’d been taking.  I rushed to my doctors, and was, luckily, able to see the “on-call” doctor fairly quickly.  He examined the eye, and told me it was a “subconjuctival haemorrhage”.  A very common, mundane phenomena, apparently – and “. . . absolutely nothing to worry about”.  He rejected my suggestion that it might have been caused by the pills I’d been taking, but had no explanation for what had caused it.  “It’s just one of those things that happen from time to time.  Could be caused by any number of things. . . “

The blood gradually disappeared, over the following three or four weeks, and the eye now looks just about as good as new.  I still decided to come off the pills, anyway; I never liked the idea of taking them in the first place.

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