The Keeper of Red Carpets

Paul Farley

He operates out of unremarkable premises.
The smell of peardrops
comes from the spray-and-body shop.
On the other side it’s paintball: NEMESIS.

Come in. Please be careful. Mind your step.
He keeps them in the dark.
It stinks, I know. Like a stable or a paddock.
Perspective slackens like an ankle rope

in a gallery. Carpets sleep off the world,
digesting its flash and glamour,
its royal visits and movie premiers.
He’s dragged last night’s returns in, tired and soiled,

to see to their cigarette burns, studs of gum.
Always the indents of heels:
money’s bitemarks leave a trail.
A few lie about – unfiled – like ruin columns.

Armed with a dandy brush he settles them down
with a beating and a groom,
and talks to them when the stain removal fumes
fuddle him and make his eyes run.

Safe now from so much as a glance,
he sleeps among them in the racks.
The stockroom phone is ringing off the hook.
Somebody’s always looking to make an entrance.