Meeting at the Wayside Cheer
I’d booked into the Wayside Cheer hotel
which would have been amusing on another day,
kids running in and out with water wings
and bowls of wilting chips served up for lunch.
There’d been a farewell kiss the night before.
I kissed again, featherly, in the morning,
and armfuls now to do, not least this meeting.
Your stubby fingers didn’t miss a detail.
It was July and you were dressed for winter,
polyester moist in suit and tie
and shuffling with a slight squeak on the vinyl.
You wouldn’t let me buy you coffee
(it was the only dark thing I could muster)
but gently murmured me into your brochures.
I braced, tried not to step into your pity.
Your shopping catalogues appalled me.
Our feet crunch pigeon bones. Cobwebs
are ankle deep. Green paint curls and cracks
in the consulting room. A once-leather chair
mildews by the desk. Opposite, arched windows,
pointed as prayers. Staircase spindles
jut at odd angles, lunge the air.
The smell is damp, wet rot, mushrooms.
Once there was lanolin and beeswax. Shades
of beige suck up light, stifle our cameras.
They bricked our other selves here, shielded them
with starch. Now the asylum bares its guts,
rips off its gown and mask, and shrieks.
Bruisyard church, Suffolk
An inexplicably tapered tower, its flintwork
Saxon, probably. Bashed and bodged to suit historians:
fourteenth century tracery, bricked-up Norman door.
A fading January afternoon: leaflets, postcards
cobble points of interest, fascinate
the casual visitor. Pictures darken into walls.
A thousand years of small songs, smaller prayers.
Leaning gravestones, muddy river. Below our feet
rich Clarences keep Poor Clares in their place.
Julian Dobson lives in Sheffield, England, home of the famous Henderson’s Relish. His poems have appeared in publications including Brittle Star, The Interpreters’ House and Acumen, and he won the 2016 Guernsey International Poetry Competition. More of his work is at 52poemsinayear.wordpress.com. He tweets, inconsistently, at @juliandobson