I could have sworn that it was him the other night,
half-cut and ancient, in a pillar of lamplight,
his shrivelled face twitching beneath his Trilby
as he gawped at the girls squatting and vomiting
in the alleys behind the night-club. Why did I blacken
so many pages, so many pristine unyielding squares?
he must have thought, as he listened to the couple
rutting in the closed-down chip-shop’s entrance.
Why did I lend my best years to the silence?
He jostled through the Four Star Pizza queue,
side-stepped an embryonic, drunken scuffle and
mooched into the solidifying mist that spangled his glasses,
his oversized 20’s raincoat of no particular colour.
My windows are thin
as the flimsiest copy-paper.
They cannot preserve the silences
that flourish when our mouths connect
from the teeming hubbub of the clubbers
disgorged into Hanover Street.
I hear the girls keening theatrically,
and the slap-happy banter
of the check-shirted boys.
It is the sound of a schoolyard, of frustration.
I listen for the rage in their brittle hilarity.
Her body beside me
is white as can be
imagined in this city of stains,
as Prague after snowfall
on a Czech dusk in December.
It is unblemished as the empty page,
which, as argument and instinct both dictate,
and as Kafka’s ghost now whispers,
is the only perfect poem.