A Shoot Out with Blank Verse*
A conversation between Augustus Young, and Yann Welsh, Scottish-Catalan painter, engraver and actor;
The exchanges took place after mid-night in Le Pub, Bras de Venus, on August 15 (The Feast of the Assumption), 2005. Welsh has lived in the South West of France for over thirty years. He possesses ateliers in Banyuls and Port Vendres, a chateau in the mountains near Ceret, drives two cars (a BMW and a SAAB), and a fancy woman called Bella (who nobody has ever seen). He is famously poor. Young is the same age, mean-spirited, and lives off his hard-earned pension. Other than a mutual love for the songs of Fats Waller, Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter, Alice B is the main reason they remain friends.
* Apologies to William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (Act 4, scene 3)
Have you noticed Alice B avoids you?
Now you’re trying to give up cigarettes,
you only smoke what you can borrow. So
you’re puffing more than ever. You can’t stop
yourself. She’s embarrassed having none.
There’s a deeper reason for not dropping in.
Her return to life is a ragbag of regrets
for the carefree days before her cancer,
and you began to pull in real money,
and worry about your immortality.
Neither of you can afford any longer
not to care a damn. And you remind her
of all that.
Now you’re in the black, the rogue
we all loved has been killed by a taste for
I’d be happy to bankroll
you, if you’d agree to be poor again.
For her sake. And I’ll throw in the nice cure
Roosevelt’s father had for asthma.
A cigar a day.
I fear it’s too late.
Having and eating your cake is your life.
I shall be glad to learn from honest men
like you how to conduct my affairs.
But, first, ‘put yourself in my place, baby,
and try to understand the way I feel’.(1)
I’ve been skint all my life. I’m a sieve.
Money runs through my fingers like sand.
The lack of it never prevented you
living it up. Life on the Auchan* waves.
‘Tomorrow I can borrow from some fool.
And disappear for a while’.(2) There was joy
in your recklessness. ‘Life’s great. Life’s grand.
Future all planned. No cloud in the sky.
Everybody loves me. I’m riding high’. (3)
Your days in the red are behind you, and yet
you’re still exploiting them when you can…
I’m much condemned to have an itching palm.
All for the sake of a compulsive urge
to borrow money which you do not need.
Though you deny it.
I know you’re not rich,
officially. It’s artfully concealed
from your creditors so they don’t get paid.
And when the bailiffs come to repossess,
fool friends rally around to bail you out.
till the next time. In your babacool way,
you deal in Futures. You’re always ahead.
Shall I be frightened when a madman stares
into my accounts and sees them double?
I speak as a friend, and for your own good.
Christ, Welsh, you wouldn’t want me to flatter you
to deceive, as I would an enemy.
You’ve seen me play the silent assassin
often enough to know I’m on your side.
* the Harrods of Perpignan