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Catherine in the City to Crabstick in the Country


Cat Fitzpatrick

Art by Maxi Magnano


Potato Wharf,

Sunday 18th September 2012

Well Ben, you’d never ask for me to write,
You’re much too proud, you’ll swear that you’re alright,
You don’t need anything from anyone,
But you’re in Cheshire, which cannot be fun
And you’re my oldest, dearest, closest friend,
I miss you. So I have resolved to send
You stories from the town, to entertain
You when you’re bored of hills and cows and rain
(This is the North, it’s raining all the time)
And as a bonus, put them all in rhyme.
I know this choice is proof of how uncool
I am, and would attract the ridicule
Of all right-thinking readers, even if
My lines weren’t crude, laborious and stiff.
I tell myself to not be such a freak
But I can’t help it. When there’s a technique
That’s hard, unpopular, and out-of-date,
Then like an arrant woman, I can’t wait,
(If I were scared of facing public shame
I’d be a dude, and bear my father’s name)
Precisely since it is a bad idea,
To start to use it straight away. So here!

Right now, I’m out of work; I cannot get
My writing published; and of course it’s wet
Outside like twenty days a month. I’m sad.
But Ben, I won’t concede the world is bad,
Or not essentially: I still love all
The secret bits of life: that Roman wall
By the canal: that curry van, that car
Park where the kids all drink; that bar
That’s hidden in some sold-off public loos.
I won’t let go of joy. We must refuse
To not be charmed. I want my life to be
Composed of beauty, love and poetry,
And I must live it here. Unless I find
A job somewhere. Not likely. I’m resigned.
This is our time. I’ve almost disappeared
In it. I barely get cat-called or jeered
At on the street, or told that I’m a bloke.
I'm nothing special, even as a joke.

And so, I’ve joined one of those writing groups,
I hang out with the amateurs and dupes
And cranks. I say I’m looking for support.
And isn’t this the place for me? I ought
To be at home amongst these mad old bats
Composing clumsy sonnets to their cats,
And wide-eyed men in donkey jackets who
Have chosen to impart their points of view
Re: war or social change or history
Or Hegel through some free-verse elegy
Upon their local rubbish dump. They're sweet.
And if we have a drink they'll often treat
Me to a pickled egg, or else a pack
Of crisps. I must look like I need a snack.


added Wednesday 21st

I'm learning Latin, mostly in the bath.
I think the present suffers from a dearth
Of certain qualities, like clarity,
Or sense of humor, which, in high degree,
Are present in, well I don't know, let's say,
In Horace. Though the modern public may
Not know it, this is what they ought to read,
I think. Can I provide them what they need?
Why not? I'm keen to learn, although I do
Have problems with deponent verbs, it's true,
And yesterday I dropped my textbook, splat!
Into the water. Useless clumsy twat.


added October 6th

I'm not just useless though. I have a few
Abilities. Like cooking. Crabstick, you
Should taste my unctuous roasted onions filled
With mascarpone. I am highly skilled
At stuffing. And, you'll laugh, but I've agreed
To help this Dyke I met who needs to feed
The crowd who come each month to this event
She's started running which she claims is meant
As an alternative to mainstream gay
Commercial culture, called 'The Queer Cafe.'
The food must all be vegan and soy-free.
This dyke is German, stands like eight foot three
In knee-high stripy stockings, which she pairs
With shorts and gilets. That is all she wears.

She's like a priest. She's caring, hopeful, grave,
And has this faith in something that will save
Us all, in her case, solidarity,
And knowledge of our hidden history.
She tells me stories from the archives: where
The mollies cruised or sapphists met to share
A drink, though not of alcohol but tea.
I guess she represents this pedigree
Herself, of thoughtful, temperate, polite
Inversion, drawing to her monthly night
A little flock of awkward kids that are
Too meek to brave the crowds down at the bar
(Those twinks with frosted tips and bottle tans
And dykes with Calvin boxer shorts and Vans
As if it's nineteen-ninety-eight. I swear
They shouldn't be so scary when they wear
Such dated clothes) and older ladies who
Have just transitioned aged like fifty-two,
And wish that they could be in church instead.
Nobody's ever drunk, or off their head.
Nobody talks. The German lady tries,
But every topic she brings up just dies
And we go back to staring at the floor.
And then, next month, we all come back for more.

My girlfriend thinks I'm frittering my time
Away with on Latin, cookery and rhyme.
I need to leave our pokey flat, she says,
And find some work that actually pays,
Perhaps at Asda. But I'm in a bind.
I'm overqualified for any kind
Of job that I could plausibly secure,
But can't get ones my actual training's for.
I fucked myself! I got a PhD.
I'm pretty sure the only hope for me
To get out from this trap, is if I write
A book that's clearly total dynamite –
Transsexual poet's sudden breakthrough hit!
And Carcanet or Faber publish it.


added January 2013, Bartlow, Cambs.

Well Crabstick, something happened. Can you guess?
My girlfriend got a job in the US!
We’re moving! Well, she’s moved. But I will too,
For certain, once I get my visa through.
For now, I’m writing from my mother’s place.
I’m an embarrassment and a disgrace,
Her adult deadbeat tranny poet kid
With weird opinions, so she keeps me hid
Up in the attic, like this was Jane Eyre.
It’s fine, whatever, it’s not like I care.
Her friends are dickheads, I don’t want to talk
To them. The pub’s a bit too far to walk,
And I can’t drive, of course, and anyway
It’s full of Tories. No, I’d rather stay
At home alone. If only it was not
So constantly insufferably hot
Inside this house. It’s like she wants to bake
Us all alive. I swear I’ll have to break
The thermostat. Just rip the damn thing out.
She’s always watching me. She lurks about
Outside my door, like some maternal spy.
My only solace, all that gets me by,
Is waiting ‘til I hear her turning in
Then sneaking down and drinking all her gin.


added February 2013

My brother left behind his PS3
When he went off to university,
And I've become addicted to this game
Called Skyrim. It's an RPG. The name
You get by default for your character
When you begin the game is 'prisoner'
And I can't seem to change this. When I meet
A person in the game they always greet
Me by this title: 'Salutations! 'Ho!
Well met Sir Prisoner!' It's apropos.
But here I am, escaping. I'm a sort
Of highly muscled biped cat, I've fought
A war, and slain a dragon, and I've done
All kinds of quests. I talk to everyone.
My actions matter here, I get results.
I bought a house. It had one of those cults
Of demon-worshippers behind a trick
Partition wall, and so I had to kick
Them out. They left some bloodstains, but it's fine.
I'm hoping to retire there. That line
About 'The perfect joy of being well
Deceived' keeps ringing like a distant bell
Inside my mind all night. I sit and play
This game till dawn, and then I nap all day.


added 21st February 2013

I need to run. To get some exercise.
I know you run a lot. I'd recognize
Your lope from miles off, so tireless
And gawky. Like a camel, you possess
The gift of storing energy, although
Without a hump that I can see. You go
All day without a meal, through to nine
Or ten at night, but when you eat, you dine.
We made, one drunken night, do you recall,
Potato Mountain Pie? And ate it all,
A foot in height, another two around.
We had it with a good red wine I found
For half what it was worth, mislabeled in
A SPAR in Sheffield, a Penfolds bin...
Which bin was it? I can't remember now.
And you said 'Other people don't know how
To live.’ That wine, in fairness, was a coup.
And now I'm standing with a running shoe
In either hand, attempting to exhort
Myself to go outside and do some sport,
To run around until my face is red,
Until I'm sick, until I wish I'm dead.


added 1:45am

Remember when we lived together, Ben?
Ha-ha. I guess we won't do that again.
Remember when you left? I felt so spurned.
You went back north, I stayed behind and turned
Your room into an office, which I took
To mean a place to fail to write a book,
And watch cartoons on DVD, and drink.
I did my best to fight a tendency to think
Obsessively about that awful night
When we went out to Bowe and had a fight
Because I accidentally left your flash
New scarf behind inside the hipster bash
We'd crashed. You were so drunkenly bereft,
But we had no idea which flat we'd left,
And I was desperate, so I pressed like half
The buzzers, shouting 'we just want his scarf,’
And then that semi-famous artist guy,
A total prick, and also clearly high
On coke, came down and started to berate
Us. Finally he slammed the steel plate
Apartment building door right on your schnoz.
We had to catch a night bus home. It was
Becoming light. Your nose was bruised. It bled
Profusely. Even though I cried and pled
For like two hours straight, you wouldn't say
A word to me the whole entire way.
I bought you a replacement in the end.
We loved each other. It was love. Of friend
For friend. Which is no lesser thing. What is
Involved in growing up? Such sadnesses.
What was it that I hoped that you would do?
I still don't know. I simply wanted you.


added September 2013

Well, Crabstick, I'm supposed to leave tonight.
I'm packed. I have the visa and the flight.
I don't expect you'll come and visit me.
If it was Canada you might. I'll see
You sometime, who knows when. I don't suppose
I'll post this letter. It's not one of those
You read, it's more a letter that you write.
Although I think of you most days, despite
Myself: of our vainglory in our youth;
Our self-conviction, that we knew the truth,
Which was hilarious; and our disdain
For any prize that we might hope to gain.
The things we wouldn't lift our arms to take!
We were such stupid kids! But we weren't fake.
We danced and drunk a lot. You could do worse,
With youth. Perhaps this move will break the curse.
Perhaps I'll get my joie de vivre back,
And then I'll write and send to you a stack
Of letters full of gossip, insight, wit.
Although I'm tired now, I must commit
To finding such a life, I'm certain that
It's out there somewhere. Yours sincerely, Cat


Cat Fitzpatrick

Cat Fitzpatrick is the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Rutgers University- Newark and the Editrix at LittlePuss Press. She wrote the book of poems Glamourpuss (Topside Press) and co-edited the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction & Fantasy from Transgender Writers, which won the ALA Stonewall award for Literature. Her verse novel The Call-Out is forthcoming from Seven Stories Press.

Maxi Magnano

Maxi Magnano is a photographer who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in 1989, he grew up in a suburban setting an hour away from the city and specializes in urban and suburban landscape photography. Through a quiet but incisive and detailed observation of the changing South American landscape of Buenos Aires and its surroundings, his 35mm photographs guide the viewer through a seemingly abandoned world. He usually self-publishes and distributes his work in limited edition zines. His work can also be viewed here.

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