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Laid-up with all about me

a man could want: a stack of the cross-

hatched notebooks I always use,

a Stabilo pen,

a brand-new thriller that famously stole its plot

from The Spanish Tragedy, vodka,

a pineapple tub

of ice to sap (a little) the bright

fever that loosened my teeth, so I half-expected

to see them drop to the quilt

like sticky Chiclets,

laid-up like that, alone

you might say, but well provided for,

I felt a sleep coming on, so thick

I might have been sleeved in darkness; and next

fell into a dream quicker

than my eyes could close: in fact

I'd already declared for Bel-imperia

and was just getting down

past the damp in the crook of her knee

to those salty, pink petals

of crêpe-de-chine,

when a voice I recognised

had me up and out of there and back to my bed -

a hot, synaptic zip

that almost made me believe I'd woken up

until I saw the tattoo:

a letter to every finger neatly between

the knuckle joints,

as he collared the bottle and turned

a page or two of my notebooks. 'Just here:

is this lorel or Lorelei? - each syllable sharp

as the detonations in ice

when you pour on vodka - 'It's plain

what's fretting you, but look,

you'll know it sure enough

when someone you claim to recognise climbs up

out of your bones

and legs it for the door

without so much as a kiss-

my-arse-goodbye (on a darkening day of "rain

moving in from the west") or even a shred of song.'

The Good Companion

David Harsent

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