The coast shrugs, when the camera clicks,
deliberately. The cliffs blur,
and the sun’s mashed in the west.
It’s sac broken, its egg-mess sticks
on the winter sea, smears it.
The air develops ghosts of soot
that become more evident, minute by minute.
They’re clever. They have no shape.
Very few oblongs blaze
in the Grand Hotel.
God, how the promenade’s empty.
The pier’s empty too
but for the figure at the far end, shadowy,
hunched with a bending rod.
That one no taller than a thumb.
It’s strange the way people go smaller
the further they are away. Most of the time
you even forget who died.
But supposing things did not get smaller?
Best to go inside. Best to push
revolving doors to where it’s warmer,
where only a carpet makes you dizzy.
Inside, things hum.
Inside the insides the corridors wait.
A door opens, a hand comes out,
It’s cut off at the elbow,
it holds a pair of shoes
cut off at the ankles.
Walk faster. God, someone is breathing,
walk faster. Humankind
cannot bear very much unreality.
That’s right – lock this door, you clumsy…
Yet things still hum, things still hum.
Who spies with his little eye
what no-one else has spied?
Best to pull the curtains on the night,
but then certain objects focus near:
the wardrobe with its narrow door,
the bible by the bedside.
Lie down, easy; lie down.
Who masturbated here?
Who whipped the ceiling? Cracked them?
Two blue, astringent eyes drag down their lids.
The dark comes from the lift-shaft.
By Dannie Abse
from A Small Desperation (1968)
Fun for readers: Which Grand Hotel is Abse speaking of in the poem? Answers in the comments.
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