Outside is not much to see:
pavement studded with fag ends
from the pub next door;
rosettes of chewing gum in bloom.
The daffodil-yellow sign:
Chan’s Fish & Chips Chinese Takeaway.
Perfume of five spice, refried fat
and blackbean sauce drifts from the open door;
inside, a red and gold money cat waves hello.
Fish swim endless circuits in a bowl,
copper flashes to bring gold,
while a silver Buddha watches.
Silence is punctuated by the hiss of chips frying,
groan of a bus at the stop outside.
He translates my order into calligraphy
while a single damp feather of hair
falls over his forehead in the heat.
Deftly manoeuvres food
from a small white bowl into his mouth
with chopsticks, a snatched meal
handled as precisely as an artist.
Packs my meal for one, smiles,
says ‘Thank you, lady.’ The steaming
parcel like a warm hand in mine.
A Beginning, An End
She arrives at St Paul’s in a fairytale carriage
filled with a froth of ivory silk and antique lace.
Where the hell’s my dinner?
The door opens, she emerges like a butterfly
but her long silk train is crumpled, an old newspaper.
You’re never bloody here, you’re always in the pub!
Face down, she steps out, nimbus-veiled,
and glances up from under her fringe.
Do you blame me with all your nagging!
Slowly she walks up the steps,
taffeta ripples behind her in a wake.
Come on girls, pack your things, we’re leaving!
Euphoric crowds scream as the jewelled tiara
catches the light like broken glass.
But we haven’t seen her face yet.
across the road is a house I watch
where men come and go
stay an hour or so
young old fat thin
there are four some afternoons
today one came early paced the sea wall
each man slides in straight after the other
her skin still smeared with sweat from the last one
blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there
house full of the smell of strangers
bedsheets crusty with sex
she fakes orgasms like a porn star
puts on a different carnival mask
to suit each customer
I study her face for signs
but she looks down at the floor
or up at the sky
one day she is gone
Dead eyes of my street’s windows
dark or shuttered, hide strangers
who move in for a year or two,
go from car to front door,
don’t say hello, move on.
At night, the only motion is that of cats
intent on a rat or competitor,
in alleys where trash festers
beside sour cracks and corners,
lit by jaundice-yellow sodium light.
The rhythm of my neighbours’ lives,
those strangers, vibrates through the wall
and is condensed to the thump of bass,
whine of Chris de Burgh,
percussion of a washing machine,
a distortion of human voices –
the only ones I may hear for days.
Annest Gwilym lives in North Wales, near the Snowdonia National Park. She is a native Welsh speaker. Her writing is often neurotic, obsessive, disturbing and uncanny. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. She has been placed, highly commended and shortlisted in several writing competitions in recent years. She was the winner of firstwriter.com’s Fifteenth International Poetry Competition 2015/16. Her interests include beach-combing for that elusive chunk of ambergris, and making her own jewellery, which she sells.