“But sir, this is the time to celebrate.”
“No.” – I decline the Santa hat proffered me
By the waiter, and declare instead: “Champagne
For the lady alone in the corner, if
She will accept it.” Thinking, “She can’t be driving.”
“You’ll have to guide me for the final stretch”,
I tell her. “Oh, it’s no problem now”,
She assures me as we leave the motorway,
“Just follow the red signs.” In the twisting dark,
Through snow and trees and shadows I spin her wheel,
And, “Do you live alone?” I ask her softly.
“If Strindberg hasn’t been fed, I do to-night.”
A last bend, a brief avenue, we stop.
I switch off. A real owl hoots somwhere,
Or a taped owl plays in the nearby wood.
“Oh Strindy! Come on, then.” The Burmese cat
Wails on the mudguard of this replica,
And is fended off gently by her opening door.
We cut to the kitchen where the genius animal
Is made replete, then some onimous echoes
Follow our feet across the mosaic floor
To a room replete with incunabula
From God knows where, the only lamps are low.
As a heavy clock hand shifts towards the hour,
The champagne kicks in on my monthly statement.
Should I play the direct guy I should like to be?
I sit down opposite her uncertain
As to my or her motives. Turning she prises
A Malory from a convenient shelf, and smiles,
And opens it and takes out . . . [To be decided.]
from Ludbrooke and Others (Enitharmon, 2010), © Alan Brownjohn 2010, used by permission of the author