Not like my friend to delay his departure
once he’d bought his Sun Pictorial.
the half-litre of fat-free milk,
and exchanged a few cracks
with our amused milk bar owner,
deriding his taste in pornography.
Most days, slick as the Eucharist
and more punctual than corporate traffic,
he’d scatter yesterday’s loaf with
deft motions of his still-elegant hands,
sheltering his flirting flock
from the odd minatory gull.
(Full house today, I’d nod,
thirty years his junior, unkempt, unshaved.
Good notices, he’d wink.)
But this particular morning he paused
on the other side of the road,
giving them a fond last paternalistic look,
all that ravenous ingratitude.
Perhaps, I thought, George Eliot was wrong
about the long vitiation of bachelordom.
Perhaps our pleasures simply simplify
with experience, disappointment.
Just then, floating down the road
in her usual trance, a truant from
the Happy Lodge brought sullen proof,
rigid, sightless, catatonic,
always pursuing some concrete panacea,
one note echoing in her head:
Why Why Why God God God Left Left Left.
Or the old widower in the flat opposite,
pausing on the landing to admire his
freshly-hung laundry: socks, towels, undies,
brilliant and inert in the strung breeze.
© Peter Rose