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This poem is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Studies Neil Powell


A dimly disinfected corridor
Leads back into the past, through ember light
From old bulbs nested in red plastic shades.
Its intersections tempt with dark dead ends:
Cracked and clattering pantry, endless cellar,
Deep cupboards housing colonies of shoes.
There's no escape nor whimsical detour.
The furniture of fear. The silent door.


Trust's emblems: open doors, plain Seniors,
Freedom of uncharted bookshelves - this
Was all the world I wished to grow into.
Up skeletal boxed stairs to attic rooms
Where adolescent literati met
And unregarded age hung in the eaves:
Contained or cobwebbed by indifference,
We traded in our different innocence.


The six bells tumbled over misty elms
To summon the devout, unnoticing
A grey cat in the hedge, a dew-lit web,
And a boy behind the leaded window, writing
At this desk, studious in another house.
I see him now, and want to say, 'Don't worry,
The years will heal your broken images.'
The whirligig of time brings his revenges.


A midland window framed another view:
Suburban trees, back gardens, washing-lines
And afternoon sun sliced by venetian blinds.
Books, records, papers tried to lend a name
To stateless furniture: identities
Lodged tentatively in a no-man's land.
The sudden warmth of strangers: good to find
Such kindness shown to one not of their kind.


An attic in a tall and silent house,
The wrong end of town, defining solitude:
I lived, consoled by anonymity,
For six safe months - deliberate prelude
To garret life, I thought. Enough of that:
Long evenings in the Roebuck; coming of age;
A few friends in the hazy rooms; below,
The trees in Eastnor Grove were hunched with snow.


The streetlamps flickered out in Distons Lane.
Above the arch, we played our dangerous game
Through smoky nights and aimless faded days,
Watching our selves or the receding room,
Booklined, Cotswold-stoned. It seemed enough:
Talk, music, whisky, dope, a little art,
Steps echoing in the archway; high above,
He said something or other about love.


A hamlet called The Town. And Matthew said,
'If I lived in a place like this, I'd write.'
We crossed the river meadows from the Crown,
Returning homeward through the mellow night,
Then talked on in the open-windowed room
Where honeysuckle weighed upon the air;
Knew nothing of the imminence of loss,
An accidental end, time's double-cross.


Suddenly space: high ceilings and white walls.
Perhaps I thought a change would set me right -
Simple as that. False logic of façades,
An each-way bet, a love at second sight,
The liar's self-conviction of a truth:
Thus caution tempts desire to leasehold life.
Bland architectural graces, signs misread:
Within, some space stayed uninhabited.


Now darkness has closed in around the desk.
The night's surviving colonists stand guard -
An angled lamp and a low-glowing fire
Where random bricks are blackened by old smoke.
Scotch, coffee, and the final Brandenburg:
At last a little time belongs to us.
Outside, the street is sobered, still: it's late;
The house's timbers gently ruminate.

This poem is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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