‘Poetry reading’

“they are still here – ”

The walls are the brown of old blood. They’re topped by a cornice painted with a fresh coat, and another one before that, and another, all the way back. Its shapes are furred thick like the element in a kettle.

“still here, with their quick fingers and luminous eyes -”

Blue lights flash past. The wail of a siren. The thought of the worst day of someone’s life.

“she said: you are too easily broken -”

It’s odd how the vowels linger. How the consonants tiptoe on the edge of line breaks. Their deliberate affected limp and their – dramatic – pauses –

“quick words / rising in my throat – ”

The voice continues. It turns pages. Behind it, singe marks on the velvet curtains remind me of an age before the smoking ban. They’re the colour of turmeric. Sometime in the 1980s, they lost their will to live.

“except for the occasional boy -”

There’s a story about the next one, and it’s being told, but I don’t want to know. The ceiling is wallpapered too.

“Burger for Helen?”

You know when the poems start again, because it all slows down, and there are notes to the noises, and the words stride out purposefully, questioning and sharp.

“she is how we imagine ourselves as lovers – ”

In the kitchen next door, something’s being whisked. A microwave beeps.

“I could watch them for hours -”

Jaws are hanging, glossy eyes strung from their sockets to the voice on the stage. They have surrendered.

“they are still here -”