At nine Steve looks at me and says we may as well begin

and as I was the only one so far signed up to read that night

make my way to the gloomy stage between rows of empty

chairs and empty tables to a lone microphone that haunts

a threadbare carpet.


You start, I’ll round up a few more people. Steve disappears

downstairs to an indistinct moan of voices, clink of glasses,

scraping of chairs and the vague iambic rhythm from the pool

table. I read to Mark (who sits behind the mixer desk), the empty

room and the melancholic dust.


I reach the third stanza of my poem SHADOWS and the line

“Bodies howl and spit in the weightless night” when Mark puts

two fingers across his lips. He was fucking off for a quick smoke.

I finish reading my poem. There is no applause. Lights flicker

from the room’s poltergeist


and I sit at an empty table. Minutes later Mark comes through

the fire escape; then Steve, a bunch of students with skinny jeans,

poets armed with slim notebooks and lever arch files drift up

wooden stairs. Steve runs to the stage, takes the mic and says

the second reader of the night is...




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