Nancy: Step back in time – cold showers, cold toast, cold drafts in leaky windows – would today’s website be a mirage?
Bookham Grange Hotel
Whether from some bizarre sense of humor,
or a last fumbling grasp at elegance,
the room was full of mirrors.
Above the tap. On the
dresser, over the mantel, fronting
They reflected one another,
and repeated the peeling paint,
the patched bedspread,
the mended rug. They multiplied
the tiny cheap print hung crooked
high on the wall.
I stripped and stood there,
and asked my ghosts
(the only company I had,
gifts of the mirrored room)
what in God’s name I was doing there.
Who slept in these beds?
Did they read the Bible;
did they fill the chipped nightstand
with travel alarms, contraceptives,
cheap novels, store teeth,
I slept alone.
On the other bed I made neat piles of clothing.
What in God’s name am I doing here?
The triptych of mirrors on the dresser
winks at the shabby room. I have given it
a stone from the sea, and flowers;
they repeat endlessly.
At night I become a company of pilgrims
burning candles. My mind turns to thoughts of atonement
and the sin of pride.
Ah love, will I wait at the door with a begging bowl?
With a little imagination can I see myself
as a dog at your back gate, gnawing grudged bones?
“I will come when I can,” you say, and you do.
You come and you go.
Much as I want them to,
the mirrors refuse to hold your image –
but neither do they mock me.
The bed, under its tidy piles of folded shirts,
no longer reproaches me with its emptiness.
Here I am.
I am one hand seeking another, water seeking thirst,
darkness in search of a flame.
Perhaps when I leave,
the mirrors will speak to one another, saying,
“While she was here, the room echoed with flowers.”
Alan: I suppose stories like the following are all too common at writers’ retreats (Totleigh Barton is one such, in Devon), but given how this one turned out, I still remember almost 40 years later.
The Fuck Poet
At Totleigh Barton
the Fuck Poet
came late to breakfast,
as did several of the
the younger ones anyway,
but not you,
who sat, past midnight,
on the stairs, a little above us,
so we had to look away,
seeing you with nothing on
under your nightgown,
weeping in shame
because, when you’d appeared
at the appointed hour
at the Fuck Poet’s door
in the converted stable
another like you
had emerged and scuttled
sideways into the shadows.
Two years later
I saw you, pale
and bloated, high
on God knows what,
reeling along the Embankment,
your terrified boyfriend
futilely trying to
guide you home;
a few months after,
you were dead;
but that night,
although cast down,
you were rightfully
above us, and
naked under your
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