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Old Sparky & Other Stories

Old Sparky

On January 4th 1903
at Forepaugh Circus, Coney Island, New York
Thomas Edison, in an act of shameless self promotion,
electrocuted Topsy the elephant
“roll up! roll up!”
Topsy, born in 1875, had killed three men in as many years,
including an abusive trainer.
a crowd of 1500 people turned up to watch the spectacle
but Edison also filmed the execution
and it played to packed houses all over the country.
they knew how to put on a good show in those days.
you can still see it on youtube.
la plus ça change
“roll up! roll up!”

On May 3rd 1946
at Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana
Willie Francis, was strapped into the electric chair
known as ‘Gruesome Gertie’
“roll up! roll up!”
Francis had been convicted of the murder of his former employer
Andrew Thomas, a Cajun pharmacist,
there were allegations of abuse.
the chair had been set up wrong by a drunk guard.
when the switch was pulled and the so called lethal surge
was applied witnesses heard screams
from behind the leather hood
“take it off! let me breathe!”

Francis lived. His case was taken up by a young lawyer,
Bertrand DeBlanc, just back from WWII.
he appealed to the supreme court,
citing various violations of equal protection,
double jeopardy and
cruel and unusual punishment.
his case gained publicity and support.
On May 9th 1947
at Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana,
Willie Francis was strapped into the electric chair
known as ‘Gruesome Gertie’
for a second time
and successfully executed.
he was 18 years old.

a lie for a lie
a truth for a truth.


Something For The Bankers, The Lawyers, The Government Boys But Not You

They have everything and you have nothing
and some men do it to churches
and some men do it by tearing families in half
and some do it in parliament
laying into truths
with vacuous souls
vacuous and brazen
skint and loaded,
the faith melting down to the last butt
in a fortress in Wapping.
there’s something for the bankers, the lawyers,
the government boys but not you…
nothing at 80 grand, nothing in the commons
nothing in the budget
at the stock exchange, it goes shuffling along
the chairman off the hook, and you wing it
and then you get it, £2 million bonus
for dead beats
it’s cash against your trash
skinted versus minted
it’s never too late to make money and
it’s never enough
and the change of blood in the fourth estate
changes nothing at all
and the coffin dodgers, playing dice over their
own grandkids’ futures waiting for the brass to diminish the cost
changes nothing at all.

you have independence or you have security
years of gas sell offs and the impossible stench
of poll tax – worse than shite.
monopoly years of multinationals and globalisation,
compound interest, with as much debt in defeat as
victory, dead years like neds
wasting their glazed and angry and drug fuelled
down the chute where a banker sits gloating among
pensions and pay offs, netted in and suckered a flakey
bad years too of whiskey and screaming, fights
on terraces, fat cats of owners rooting around
your souls buried in stone,
the signs in history like diamonds hollering
fred goodwin, memories howling out of the depths
warning you to remember the past horrors and the shites
that robbed you.
years when children curse sad tragic truths
like ghosts of the future, trying to send you a message through
their souls while their souls are still
alive enough to scream and yell and race up
and down without debt and dole checks and
ipods and possessions and apple like
years when you can cry all year long in
a padded cell with the door locked, years
when you can scream at the bailiff
because his boss is over seas
years of funding in hedges…

and again, and again, years of
new bosses, yellow peril
with cheap labour and bound feet, men
who own the frogs, red tops, men who spend
as if poverty had never owned them, men
who think it is obvious to hire and fire with
impunity, men with disposable lives they
disown like 30 pieces of silver to be cast off
or shrugged off or to be signed off from
the incompetent, men who own you
because they’re loaded with justifications of a
new law, men who stand behind a wall that can be seen
from space and see nothing but money
men with luxury internationalities who can screw up
the world and yet never get out their wallets,
men like leeches, men like fleas, men
like midges, but not as big…

and again, getting your final pay-off
from the docks, from the factory, from the shambles of a
burning rig, from a two bit shit-hole, from
a job, from a country you didn’t own
poll taxed, jobless, servility, broken
spirits, broken hearts – all the shite
comes out like a rancid haggis.
they have it all and we have nothing.
some do well enough and
give nothing away. fame eats them with disgust
with wages with lack of merit with veils of illiteracy
across the eyes of children
in stolen cars in broken minds while skiving
in cyberspace with new labour with old lies
or just short changed and deranged –
the truth you knew yesterday whoring
for ten quid or hacking for forgiveness and
forgotten by the hunchbacked harlots now
just hiding under an ermine stole or a cross
or a stone of scone or an uneasy delusion
or rewriting a bible or a sunday paper or a
bail out, see how they run, see how they run – all
the ones you know will never go.

years like this like your life today
maybe the bricks through the window trying to
grab your attention, where does it get you?
and what for? at what cost? the worst
years are always the first, dip a bit in
the middle then really bottom out at the end.
the vacant faces get you down, congregations of
halfwits on religious prozac get you down. stiffs in
board rooms round the world in their vapid impunity
get you down, guilty but scot free, roll out the
barrel, looking down the barrel, and fags for
breakfast, the merchandise hot enough to
keep your parole officer interested, three
albanians outside a pub, trying to fit in
and trying to make out and trying not to be
albanians. no wonder the gods weep
no wonder the kids don’t want to play the game,
are you in a padded cell in Motherwell looking for
a loophole? one more bad year, another
diary full of woe, and as
the masons come out of their lodges after
their rites, having done enough, eight masons
with diverse levels and diverse handshakes
to show – skipping along the mile, some of them
own steel and papers, some of them own
titles, some of them own people, some of
them are hardly human at all. too much
and never enough. orcs and ogres, tax exiles,
fuckwits, fools, millionaires, members of

in the last recent meltdown run
there was the soft smoke blowing up asses.
and the hackneyed sound of old platitudes
and if you wake up and run your memory
along the history shelf you’ll find
lies, maybe even the motherload
and if you open your eye mind
there may come a year, if we
get older, to keep hoping,
keep hoping
stick your fingers up a little
yes no maybe referendum

why take it lying down?
why on your knees?
hold the front page.


Home Office

It started off as a joke

Why don’t you run for parliament? I mean, seriously how hard can it be? You’ll be riding a Conservative ticket in a safe seat. Who’s laughing now?

Some old boot came up to me asking, “Mr. MP, whatever happened to my vote?”

And I screamed back, “How the hell do I know what happened to your vote? What the hell happened to democracy, to accountability, to common decency? Don’t come to me with your troubles, Lady! I’m trying to run a fucking country here!”

That usually shuts ’em up.

Woke up in my clothes again, raced straight into work sweating alcohol and certain substances best left unmentioned with not even enough time for a cup of coffee before my first cabinet meeting. Thank god my stench blended in with the all-pervading funk of self-importance and over indulgence.


After a particularly heavy two-day lunch break I decided to take a sabbatical at my hedge fund traders. I knew the system, it was easy to walk away with a year’s wages in a couple hours. Never back the obvious. Arms trades might be the safe option but always balance it out with some pension scams and so called ‘charity fund raisers’. And the most important thing of all, put money on the fact that you’re going to lose. That way you never can. The company might be pond life but the returns are worth the pain.

I met the new MP, just a kid. He kept pestering me with his ideas. All the time, in the commons, in the hallways but mostly in the bars. “What do you think of this proposal? What do think of this resolution?” Eventually he gave me his thoughts in a leather bound volume, virtually a manifesto. I told him that I’d take it home and give it a once over. It started out all right, some good ideas, some good policies, and then the philosophy started creeping in. Ideology, morality, insanity. Next time I saw him I told him, “You’ve got some good stuff here but you’ve got to stay out of the fucking pulpit! You’ll lose your audience.” “IT’S ALRIGHT FOR YOU!” he screamed, “YOU ALREADY LOOK LIKE YOU’RE WASHED UP! YOU ALREADY LOOK LIKE YOU’RE DISILLUSIONED AND USED UP! THEY’LL TRUST YOU! WHAT ABOUT ME? I LOOK LIKE I’VE GOT A FUTURE! I STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOSE!” I left him to it. He lost the next bi-election and was never heard of again.

I’ll get a job on a board of directors somewhere, I’ll go on the lecture circuit. Maybe I’ll write my memoirs one day, I thought.

And then I got someone else to do it.


© Frere Pukowski 2011

About the author

Frère Pukowski (The Ubowski Brothers)
Pukowski is described by those who know him best as a charlatan, fraud and plagiarist he is the only person to have been twice awarded the Noble prize for lying.