Chris Tysh


Zdzislaw Czermanski, Samuel Beckett

Molloy: The Flip Side

In a din chamber
Mother sets my vice
Little bed of needles

Have no fucking idea
How I got here
Someone called 911

Ma’s aide, maybe
Sent him a strong current
Checked the floor for balance

He swears “no way”
Hands over a few bucks
And picks up the stack

Tinfoil, tin darts.  We jet
And unravel evidence
A nest of imports, so they say

What’s what now: speak!
Gotta check out soon
Be done with dying

While they read the signs
Parrot’s mess, a broken sink
My legs bid adieu

Who am I kidding?  Haven’t done
Squat in weeks, can’t read
His chicken scrawl; he barks “why not?”

I write mortar for mortal
Without wanting to correct
My mistake like a stranger

In a dark forest I piss on words
“Vase,” “bed,” same struggle
Only plusher. A relation of sorts

I spawned one somewhere
He’d be an old fart now
Not the grand love you’re right

See a pretty bonnet, a crumb
I lifted her rug, so tiny
And slanted toward a door

If I’m not mistaken
I’ve known him, my son, that is,
Crap! I forget his name again

The question bars my way
Every stump every bit of damp
Muck wants to be born

All goes blank.  Any minute now
I’ll go bat blind, then the head
An empty pot will follow

Pain’s IOUs keep in my throat
Where they make a fist as if
To say we’ll show you

Did you say what I think
I heard? Fault? Boo-boo, blunder
Slip up? Do you still use such slurs?

At the instant, peep holes
Like troughs drain light
Leaky little eaves in the bed of the sea

Then neither tavern nor black weeds
Only A and B in an empty field
Till the cow drags its ass home

It’s the fixity of the empty set
A bit self-conscious of standing in
For twisty bleak road ahead

No doubt about it.  There were two
Of them; they had just met in a ditch
Wearing coats because of the weather

The brute mezzo of stomping feet
Beneath means nothing yet
But at dawn they’ll speak some

It’s not like they’re buddies
Waiting for a pint or a handshake
On the way to the office

The treason of hills
Finds a path no doubt
From his bedroom

Where he guesses
Flanks, crests and valleys
Rise, indigo, even

Even if it were the caverns
Of his heart—that black
Crevasse he roams at night

Pressing his stick, I’m ashamed
To say, once level and stout
Now a mere shadow where I crouch

But this cigar in the breach
Like a corkscrew in my guts
Sand, ashes and dust of fallen things

The fuming hand, mangy skin; alright,
I stink. My crutches scrape as I try to
Ask him, please, the this and that

East of history, I missed stuff
The very alphabet, large glass
Somebody left in the alley

Shit! I hate talking about myself
Since every I is a he.  Look, he split!
Should I be watching him still?

To row in silence toward
The world of objects is to wish
A story resembled them but better

Whereas I’m at bottom
I mean literally, that’s my crib
Somewhere between scum and mire

B, isn’t it?  Among chariots
And the rah-rah of carts leaving
Town before dawn; it could happen

Then a series of bangs taps out
Next part, fraps as with ropes or cables
Nightly mares that race mad around the bend

I wonder what the hell that means
Let’s blow this joint—I’ve got places
To be—my mother’s, to be blunt about it

No need to remark a certain blue
Hour when I mount the shaky
Premise I’ll call hereafter a bike

And don’t ask me how I tie my crutches
Nor how I pedal with one leg—slightly
Less stiff than the other—ah! the little red horn

Who gives a rat’s ass!  Who hears
The crakes’ awful racket in the grain
Fields, a chain of events I imagine

Within the strict compass
Of my journey caked with
Darkness, sans sex sans parent

The thing is mother and I—
My shitty start—are so old now
We’re like two sere fucks on a rail

Dilapidated ma, Mag
Hello, Caca Countess!
Poor fit of flesh and bone

We’ll skip the introductions
Go straight to the empty sweep
Of eyes, knobby knees pressed

Together and the manic lift
Of her dentures: a short rap to
The skull means yes, no, maybe

I mime the answers with my hands
Lest she mix up the banknotes
For that crust of bread she shoves in

It’s not her money I’m after
Gray soft sac and yet I’ll crawl
Back like a mugger in the night

But enough about her!  Let’s go
To the funky road bazaar at the
Edge of town, purple flowers

A little further on, mark the way
Vats and papers in the traffic isle
Like pastry doilies I vaguely think

Oh no! The copper wants the other
Paper with my mug on it; it’s the law
He says for richer or poorer, lame or not

Up to the station we must go; I remember
That much—the air is kind under the blue
Sky of the policeman’s eye

Could it be the quarter
Of slaughterhouse, gaslight
And blunt instruments?

Forget about it! I told you
I have blanks in this area
Minus the fact I’m dying

To sit down although
It’s a canned image
Blue and gold from before

The somber soil saw a crisscross
A fan of figures from liquid
To coarse crooks shuffling in place

In the aha moment that follows
I blurt out “Molloy’s the name”
Sure, I’m sure, Mr. Commissar

Roughly speaking though free
To go I understood my body’s
Dumb trespass on decency

Does nothing to ease the long
Theory I sit on like an abandoned
Subway station, toothless and lost

To the world of putrid chairs
Blanched façade and the hazy
Cut-out of me and my bike

All that nonsense at the precinct
Like kicking a dead horse
Excites my hunger big time

Hold on! Now comes the famous
Passage of sucking stones I move
From pocket to mouth and back again

A suggestion of cinnamon
Passes my senses, the most
Stranded of organs left high and dry

Hobbling I make for the ditch’s
Empty bed under white hawthorn
A fistful of grass on my tongue

Take it easy, pal! You can
Still spread your toes and hear
The wind howl.  It’s not over

Till the fat lady sings or the flies buzz
Or someone draws the blinds
Or whatever the fuck that’s scary

It’s not that eerie hour’s martyr light
Nor the stone remains of a house
In the slow effacement of a name

But just before a singular night
There by the side of a canal
Full of shadows against my thoughts

 1. Source text. Samuel Beckett. Molloy. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1951.

tyshFranco-American poet and playwright, Chris Tysh is the author of several collections, the latest of which is Cleavage (Roof Books). She is on the creative writing faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her latest play, Night Scales, will be produced at the Studio Theatre in Detroit (April 2010) under the direction of Aku Kadogo. Her website is

One response to “Chris Tysh”

  1. […] Molloy: The Flip Side . . . . Chris Tysh’s verse transcreation of Samuel Beckett’s “Molloy”. Mark Kerstetter, poetry editor for EIL, gives a wonderful reading of her work. […]

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