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2 poems by Niall Bourke

The Fucking Fuckers

You and J are fucking. Although J is on top of you, neither you nor J think that you are the ones being fucked (that is, both of you see yourselves as the fucker and neither of you see yourselves as the fuckee; and that is both of you see yourselves as doing the fucking and neither as receiving it).

It’s not that either of you consider yourselves unequal participants; it’s more that in order to see yourselves as any type of participant in your fucking you would both require a much more analytical sense of mid-fuck scrutiny than either of you two fucking fuckers can care right now to give.

For you, the view of yourself as the fucker is predominately because it has simply never occurred to you that you might not be one; that is, that you might be a fuckee, one who receives the fucking? No, this is inconceivable. It would be like trying to understand blindness by closing your eyes instead of by studying a picture through your elbow. For J, however, it is different. J is not above thinking of themselves as a fuckee on occasion (and here J is more honest than you, because J will admit to, in the past, having been happily most happily fucked). But J refuses to accept that whether choosing – yes, choosing – to become a fuckee is determined by anything so arbitrary as mere position. What about when you are both lying on your sides? Or both standing up? Or both draped over a chair like wet coats? Clearly, mere position does not always help discern who it is that’s doing the fucking and to whom, and thus what determines someone’s status as a fucker or a fuckee must be something else and, yes, while it’s true that, right now and lying on your back, you are being more thrust upon than thrusting, but you know it was in

fact J who instigated this particular fuck by turning your skin as sharp as bark with a careful brush of a hand and so, if – if! – J is now choosing to be a fuckee then it is only because J has acquiesced: and acquiescence is born from choice and choice is born from power, and power means, of course, that in J choosing to not own the fucking it is in fact J who owns it after all.

So, when J comes with a wet clench and collapses on you like an ironing board, You are tempted – almost tempted – to say ‘That was so good’.

But you don’t – knowing, of course, that saying that was so good’ is really saying: ‘please reassure me that you enjoyed that to at least something approaching a similar level as I did and that we are at least on an equivalent plane of fucking and that I am not in a river while you are, say, in a puddle’.

So you don’t say anything. But then J rolls over and says, ‘That was so good’.

You sleep in fitful snatches after that, shallow dreams that break like poppadums, until you find yourself awake once more. The moon is coming in through the curtain, landing on J’s face so it’s unclear whether J is smiling or dreaming of finding loose change. You pause – then shuffle into J, lick an earlobe, trace down J’s thigh with a fingernail. J stirs awake and you whisper through the darkness ‘fuck me, fuck me hard’, your words ringing out like a klaxon opening a Black Friday sale.

Burger Foods

You’re cleaning the freezer again. It’s dark, apart from that one bulb in the ceiling covered by the blue plastic casing and a metal grill.The light in the freezer is a pale blue, the same ghosty colour of the lights in the public toilets to stop smack heads finding a vein. You can’t imagine there’s a problem with people shooting up in the cold-store of an unnamed and totally fictional fast food chain – but you get an image of moving a stack of frozen Whoppers and discovering a cryogenic junkie with a belt still on his bicep. The thought makes you step backwards into a box of fries and you end up with your arse planted into a tray of cold meat patties. Icy bits of burger soak down your pants and up your hole. Frozen flame grilled cunts, you say. You’re about to stand up – but decide against it. There’s nothing actually needs to be cleaned in here. The freezer is, in fact, spotless – and you know it’s spotless because you cleaned it yesterday (and the day before). You’re only in the freezer because your manager sends you in out of pure spite, spite because you refuse to clock-out when it’s quiet and go sit in the staffroom so that you’re not getting paid. It’s one of her strategies to keep the costs on her shifts down – however, you know (after some research) that’s it’s illegal and so you refuse to do it. Now, in a bid to break you, whenever you refuse to clock-out she makes you first scrub the abominably grease-soaked grill hoods and then go in to clean the freezer so all the manky burger grease solidifies into your hair. Your manager is not used to people refusing to clock-out. Most of the other people who work the night shifts with you are Chinese students who, legally, can only work 19 hours a week – but your manager allows them to register using both their English names AND their Chinese names, so now they can work 38 hours because they show up as two separate people on the wage slips so they are too scared to refuse her cost-cutting overtures. But, even though you’ve tried hate her for all this, you can’t. You’ve seen her crying in the office when she needs to fill in the weekly target charts, and you still remember how the man from headquarters got up in her face; shouting so loudly about her excessive use of cheese in the quarter- pounders with cheese (use lettuce instead! Lettuce is cheap – cheese is not!) that he left spittle all over her glasses. After ten more minutes watching your breath clump in the blue air you reach the maximum amount of time Health and Safety says a person can spend in a freezer, so you get up and leave. Your manager is hiding in the office pretending to do something with spreadsheets, and the next few hours pass uneventful; save for an argument with a customer who waves a gerkin at you and shouts I told you no cucumbers! (in the end turns out you were both right) and another customer who has eaten all but the final crumb of her burger but is now at the counter complaining the mayonnaise was off and thus demanding another burger full of the very same mayonnaise in recompense. When it’s time for your actual break, you do clock-out and go to sit in staff room with a bag of onion rings. Roy is already there, noisily drinking a milkshake, and you sit across from him on a blue plastic chair which is fixed to the floor. Is Roy a popular name in China? you ask him and he laughs, before telling you his Chinese name (which he correctly predicts you won’t be able to pronounce). He then tells you he went to the cinema at the weekend.What did you see? you ask him. The Passions of Christ, he says. Did you like it? you say. It was O.K, he says, but I didn’t understand the story – who was the main character? And why did no one like him and why was he carrying the big stick? Your manager is still crying into the recalcitrant rows of her spreadsheets and you know you’ve now got thirteen minutes to explain the whole concept of Jesus to a notional Buddhist who speaks only conversational English. Right, you say to Roy offering him an onion ring, you see there was this donkey, right – no, forget the donkey, there was this star – no, no, actually, there was a king doing a census – What’s a census? he says. Ah, here, jaysus - look, you say handing him over an onion ring, you’re going to need another one of these––


Niall is originally from Kilkenny, in Ireland, but now lives in London, where he teaches English. His debut poetry collection Did You Put The Weasels Out? was published in April 2018 and was longlisted as one of The Poetry Schools’ books of the year. In March 2022 Broken Sleep Books published his second poetry collection, a ‘Pick Your Own Poetry Adventure’called The Erection Specialist.


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