France. La France. O France. Comment tu es belle la France. Go fuck yourself in the arse, La France! It's too late to start again now. I loved you once and then I arrived. In quick succession you ravaged my heart and ruined my health, made me too fat for my shirts and left me with just a single, sodden shoe. Va te faire enculer, La France! I had to walk home in the wet and, for the next nine months, tramp about like a clown wearing odd shoes and no socks. That winter of pneumonia and bronchitis when your dealers robbed me of everything but that which I didn't have. You laughed at me in the cafes and mocked me in the unemployment offices. You sent me back and forth between despicable civil servants, all asking for different papers that they knew I didn't have; didn't need; some of which didn't even exist. O with what joy did you run me around town? Send me to places on the very outskirts which no longer resembled Europe. O fuck You La Belle France. I thought such thoughts and worse as you had me suffer entire days of remedial classes, listening to a government trained retard lecture on how to formulate the perfect CV. Curriculum Vitae. Mon dieu! Did you not see us? How the fuck could a CV have helped any? O La belle France. What have you done? You deserve everything that comes your way in these wicked times. You drag it all down upon yourself. Every shot; every bullet; every exploding belt. It's all done beneath the shadows of your actions. The right-wing uprising and retaliation too. The bubbling conflicts in the suburbs. Peck out a man's eyes and watch him go crazy to defend what's left of him. A whirring, crazed, waltzer of indiscriminate violence. France, you pecked out my eyes. You harpy fucking scavenger!
France! My beautiful prison of diluted and overpriced joys. I weep desperately within your borders. I go to your marches and observe the left, divided up into a hundred factions, blowing whistles and lighting flares, beating drums and chanting and laughing to serious matters. Your squares bordered by the armoured ignorance of the Police Nationale. Their black, ruthless boots ready to stomp over anyone not draped in the tricolor. France, you told me, swore to me, lied to me that only the Arabs and Africans get ID checked. Go away with your falsehoods and propaganda. Pink skin doesn't save one here. Five fucking hours I spent on my back in your rotten custody cell. Mary, half junk sick, having to journey out into the middle-of-nowhere to produce my ragged passport. Then, last autumn, in the Perrache train station, being marched off and strip-searched for standing too close behind three armed officers on the escalator. A bottle of unscripted methadone discovered in my bag . It's a stupifiant! they kept shouting. I told them I wished it fucking were, that I'd love to be as stupidfied as them. I should have left you to rot without me then, but the prospect of dire poverty and heartache, a few years of dying in your third largest city wooed me. Lyon! Only Lyon! You were beautiful for a summer; the lap of your twin rivers calm and serene; the mist and fragrances rolling down your hills early morning; the spirit of European summer and fiesta wafting through your narrow streets. O France, is that your ruse: to beguile? You promise everything and deliver nothing but tax demands, obscure charges and rent increases. Then you close your banks on Monday and snip the electricity at its root. France, I never used your fucking electricity! How could I have? I only had one lightbulb and a mobile phone. Though, soon enough, you took them too.
France. I lost my teeth in your streets, marinated them in your methadone and coughed and spat them out in disgust through your lonesome nights. I spent years suffering from your toothache, woke in pain to each new day with my face swollen and the nerves in my temple raging away. France your toothbrushes are useless! Four for one euro sixty seven centimes. Red, blue, green and purple. The handles snap in half and the bristles fall out. Fuck you Carrefour® and the Part-dieu Commercial Centre. Fuck the whole rotten lot of you. Your doctors too. Kneading my liver each month as though it were pizza dough; the young interne with his specs and stethoscope so eager to diagnose his first death, asking: Is it swollen? Foie gras, Monsieur. Foie gras! The doctor giving an indifferent shake of his head, telling me to get dressed and, begrudgingly, giving me another month to live. Halle-fuckin'-lu-jah! How adept you are at presenting bad news! Stop the drugs, you said. Get off the needle! Quit the cigarettes! Do some exercise! Lower your cholesterol intake! What kind of a fucking doctor would ever levy such a miserable tariff on a dying man? O, fuck You Dr Denis! Fuck you L'hôpital de la Croix Rousse! You gave me so little you didn't even charge for it.
France. Monsieur the Mayor of the 3rd arrondissement: fuck fuck you! Your crooked, corporate socialism twists my stomach. Of the left? Sure you're of the left. You're so far too the left you're on the fucking right! What with all the scandalous discrimination you lord over in your own house. Call it what you like, celebrate the PS coming into power after 18 years, I saw the same happen in Britain, the exact same idiots singing with joy and heralding in the new bandits and gangsters, clinking glasses and slurping down oysters together. Power is power and it always sounds like that. I moseyed around your office, listening, Monsieur The Mayor. I watched your advisers cutting out the day's press clippings and political news; your personal assistant mailing off the video footage of your latest speech to Le Progrès. I saw you lumber around with your trousers unbuckled and your shirt hanging out, raging on about how cheap and acidic the wine was. I watched you, Monsieur the Mayor, heave on your heavy felt coat, have your sash pinned in place, clear your throat like a tenor and gob a lump of vile phlegm into your handkerchief, ready to lead the war veterans' D-Day parade. O Sir, I eyed your staff, and the town hall gardians, sweeping before you as you walked and wafting away at your behind as you went, fanning your wind to either side of the red carpet and scooping up your droppings as they came to bear. Monsieur the Mayor of the 3rd arrondissement. I had to clean your bureau every second evening, empty your bins and dust your plants. O, you should know better than to ever employ such a scoundrel. I pissed in your fire grate and masturbated in your leather chair. O Monsieur Thierry Philip, if only you could have seen how wildly I came, shooting sperm across your desk, over your diary and bullseying a picture of your wife and kids. I cleaned and polished your desk that evening, Sir! The next morning, first thing, to my horror, I was summoned by my immediate manager. Wearing a grave look he asked if it was I who had cleaned your office the previous evening. Guilty, I pleaded. Whereupon the wild reprobate took up an email and read me of your surprise and thanks, broke into a salacious smile as he disclosed 'my desk and leather chair have never shone so splendidly'. Ha! How influence and importance garners special treatment. Don't trust the silent ones, Monsieur the Mayor of the 3rd arrondisement. Don't trust anyone your country has pecked at so much.
Mademoiselle La France. You contemptible beast of formations and concours and adjoints. How you sat glaring at me each time, blank and motionless, like there was nothing which could be done. I cleaned your toilets, Mademoiselle, and in return you shook your head in dismay. You told me that I had not undergone the required training needed to handle such cleaning products. I waved you away and you proceeded to grill me over my knowledge of glass polish and disinfectant cleaner, demanded that I state the dilute ratio of neat bleach to water when using it to disinfect public washrooms. I was set to say 10 to 1 part bleach but finally never bothered. Any answer would have been the wrong one. I apologised and swore to never scrub your crap again. Mademoiselle! I slogged out my soul for your pubic services and your minimum wage. For three years I worked myself too exhausted to write. You shoved me in a hole of a room, round the corner from the bins, and five years later hit me with a four thousand euro bill for unpaid residence tax! Four thousand euros. If I had four thousand fucking euros I'd be a resident some place else. Some place that functions. Mademoiselle La France, you do not function! You are 'hors de service': legs closed for business. Daily life is a succession of disasters and frustrations. Tobacconist closed. Pharmacy closed. Boulangerie sold out of everything but stale salmon baguettes. Fast food places shut until 7. Restaurants refusing to serve food. Supermarket closed for an impromptu stock check. Transport staff on strike. The corner store without change of a twenty euro note. The concierge on permanent sick leave. Mademoiselle, you insist on such a tiresome way of operating and then harp on about low foreign investment. Fuck you Mademoiselle La France. Fuck your 35 hr week. Fuck your Unions who have become just another cog in the political machine. The supposedly hardline CGT, agreeing that I was illegally dismissed yet telling me that they have a policy of fighting common rather than individual struggles. They gave me the number of a lawyer they said would work for free, who though, unfortunately, was also three months deceased. When I called back to give news of the poor man's medical status they abstained from answering the phone and ignored my various messages. Fuck You La République Française, I saw through you completely in that moment.
France. I know your whores and they suck. Too clean; too classy; too unwhorelike. You keep your own upstanding and legal, but what of the eastern European girls along the river, putting it out for all of 20 euros a trick? Not a single pin prick or crack pipe between them, a fact which bespeaks a real social tragedy. Oh, you know how to treat them. Drag them in for soliciting once a month or so, disturb their lives for a night while adding to the misery. First thing Monday morning, trot them out and stand them in the defence box, half naked and cuffed, their sordid misdemeanors and acts slowly read out to the judge and procureur. O madame La France, you sure as hell know how to look after your own alright, keep them from dribbling away at home! Your court rooms are full of criminals, La France, and most of them are being paid by the State.
France. The great romance you peddle is a myth. Romance never thrives under such hardship and drudgery. No-one kills themselves for love after that. All that happens is that people get worn down and out, and youth and beauty fades into early retirement. I've read your poets and I've watched your films. I crossed your bridges and I dreamed! I dreamed of fire-eaters and jugglers, street artists and musicians. I dreamed of song and death and fuck and absinthe, of opium and Gauloise cigarettes, sailors and show- girls. France, I stood on your terrain and I had hope, but even then I was looking way over yonder to God knows where beyond. Through your warm, subdued evenings I traipsed around with the poet prickling away inside of me. I saw all the wonder of life in your pink skies and said 'La France, La France' over and over, like I was on the cusp of something great. O I tried my best. I sought out wild, psychotic affairs, fantasized about death pacts and leaving a bloody mess for your civil servants to clean up. I went to your parties and took part in your theatre. I stripped naked and danced my birth and death in the Beaujolais valleys. I responded truthfully to the director when he asked:
Can You dance?
Can you sing?
Can you act?
No, I replied each time.
Perfect, he said, you're exactly what I'm looking for!
Madame, Mademoiselle, La belle France, L'hexegone, La République: You have ruined me all you can. With minus 883 euros to my name there is no more you can take. Go ahead, sling me into jail for a month, recuperate my debts that way, deal me your last remaining blow. I will take it, La France. I will suck it up and enjoy it, thrive of the stinging pain and spit the blood back at you in defiance. I will eat your porridge and your mashed carrots and I will shit it out down your fucking u-bends. France, your bidets are broken and your eau de toilette is wearing thin. Down South the stench of your filthy cunt is overpowering. Madame de la République, I will fuck you no more! You've no disease worth having. With nothing left to protect or defend my integrity is way out of your bounds. It's true, you took all that which I entered with, but that is hardly a victory. What? A broken suitcase? A pittance of cash? My final stay of youth and a mouthful of teeth? Come come La France, the spoils of war are not what they used to be. But me, O La France, me I leave with such words in my head – words so beautiful and vulgar and mine. And even on the journey out, on the last bus back home or for wherever it is destined, your nights will still sizzle and smell of fire and smoke and I will cry for all you are and all you were and all you still could be. France, from the Fourvière hill, looking down, on a day like today, I still shiver with life and love and passion. I become giddy and whimsical as the coming evening paddles your dark rivers towards the sea; inebriated by the lights from your harbours and river boats. France your skies still excite me like the first night of the first night of the first night. France, La France, O France. Comment tu es belle la France. Go fuck yourself in the arse La France. So impossible and hopeless, my France, La France.
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Thanks as ever for reading, Shane. X
Lines for Joe M