Laughing Gas

Stephen Knight

        I am timing the Fire Doors for something to do;
    They swing alarmingly! Since the Management reduced
Our use of electricity I walk the corridors
        Trailing my fingertips the length of the wall.

        I think of adjectives to sum this building up:
    Warrenous, respectable, and windowless. When you
Talk to me I watch the movement of your lungs, the ripple
        Of the fibres of your mohair pullover.

        The mannerisms of our six close friends become
    As obvious as eyes: they fidget and tick like clocks.
You study their hands, their irritable hands. And I, I
        Make a note of everything you say and do.

        The time you spend on make-up is a blessing – your
    Dead white cheeks are as good as light and heat to guide me
Down the corridors! Concrete dust is rising from the floors
        Like fire; when it reaches the lips it mixes

        With our exhalations. Temporarily, I
    Believe in ghosts. Don’t tell me that you don’t! Yesterday
Your drawing-pad was open at a charcoal face, wincing
        With a silly grin for want of oxygen.