Moving away in the taxi, I could just see myself
climbing the marble steps and stepping through
the plate-glass into a lounge-cum-vestibule,
its floor inlaid with a pink star of mineral grains
and roughage – a breakfast for the after-life.
Beaded oak cladding, electrified oil-lamps,
a pharaonic desk-clerk. The air was cut and dried
as though reconstituted in the basement’s lungs
and laid out, and folded, in cool parched reams.
The Shining was obtainable on the video service
but would be scrambled after several minutes
if you failed to press the ‘Confirm’ button
– otherwise it was a sex film I was embarrassed
for the glamorous Thai receptionist
to know I was watching. So I tried to read
The Temptation to Exist feeling conspicuously
absent and uneasily aware
of being ironed flat, flatter, by the clean sheets
and of the bedside table’s inbuilt clock
with its defective digits: every minute
was a minus sign or a gnomon, every hour
was missing a slant side to its parallelogram.
I closed the eyelids of the two nightlights;
then mine ... until I woke as though I’d feasted
on finely-ground enamel. There was nothing for it
but to go home – some home! – but first why not
spirit away the bar of opalescent soap, the small
urn of bath-foam and the shroud-sewing kit
the size of a matchbook, with loops of thread
five different shades of grey
or maybe it was the light? I had a good mind
to mend the inside lining of my coat
but instead went down in the shiny lift
and sank in an armchair by the crystal ashtray.
Was I a Mr John Ashbery, someone asked me.
No, I replied, not Mr Ashbery
– but pausing mysteriously mid-sentence as I felt
he deserved a couple more guesses for being
somehow on the right track, if not exactly warm.
The pause obviously disturbed him. He didn’t
like that pause. Well tell him
if you’d be so kind that his taxi’s waiting.
O yes I could just see myself doing that.
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