from an idea by Conrad Aiken


The Lounge

Netted windows with fawn roller blinds

lowered a little by their macramé tassels for his forty winks

Shush! Be quiet, he's having his nap, don't make a din -

or completely, when at night

he shovelled the last coal from the bin

concealed in its wooden cabinet

and lowered the heavy lid on the fire to keep it in


The Playroom

The old wind-up gramophone seemed to play

Forties tunes - Broadway Melody and

Drip Drip Drop Little April Showers each day

when the Davey Crockett record smashed.

The tall 'black cupboard' stood by the door

with toys and a pile of Marvel comics

he brought back from the States in the war


The Dining Room

She waited for the key in the lock, the pause in the hall

and the loving, greeting kiss

and began tea as he peeled and quartered an apple

carefully with his penknife

and she poured tea and passed cups


The School Room

Of course there were old desks and huge radiators

and a blackboard that rolled up its wisdom



The Garage

No car - but a treasure trove of old tools

In a case, wireless valves and rheostats

gave no hint of their use


The Workroom

You bend the top of the wire into a hook and hold it

beside the stem and twist it round

or thrust it through a carnation from the stem

make a hook and pull back down

ready for another wreath or bride's bouquet


until the pots of blooms on the floor run out



The piano fell into disuse

His Für Elise had been as good as it got

He never had the ear for it


A bedroom

Night-night, sleep well, you can read for ten minutes.

Bureau closed on homework and the ink spill, not yet noticed,

which ended the sad essay, What I did in the summer holidays

School clothes ready on the other bed


A cabin

The loneliness of three bunks

three lockers, three lifejackets

and a porthole


Another lounge

We watched That Was The Week That Was

or Ken Russell's The Music Lovers

and later with television in the background

we were alone,

the huge bay window curtained in velvet



The bottom bunk bed was fine and not uncomfortable

as I dreamed of her

in the room opposite


Cabin 2

Returning to his cabin after docking he found

an open door and a uniformed man

bending over his desk

reading his letters:

Little use in remonstrating -

Hull was the home of UK Customs & Excise

and now he felt sympathy with the crew

who built false pipes in the engine room

made from tins of Old Holborn tobacco


The last cabin

She had known his cabin before.

And now it was hers too:

held between the thrum of the engines

and the uneven sway of the sea

she was unsure of her new life


The Bar

Drinks before dinner

Darts after dinner

And anecdotes!

In return for some small jest

the electrician pouring ink into the bath

of the 'Fridge Engineer -

Jim scrabbling his way out

as the black tide advanced.

He's dead now - murdered in a Glasgow pub.



They stood politely for my wife

as we arrived at the table

for the first time

and leaning forward as he sat again

the Third Engineer's tie floated across his soup

and broke the ice


A kitchen

When they arrived at the farm -

daffodils poking through melting snow -

before they could ask about the cottage

she pulled them into the kitchen

with the tiny orphan lamb by the fire

and the kettle steaming on the stove

for a cup of tea


Another bedroom

Kneeling on the bed

he looks down at her hair

spread on the pillow

in sleep


Seminar Room

The fusty fug of a small room

with too many students in it

seated on unmatched chairs

to discuss a Whitman poem

imperfectly understood



Ten research papers explore

the use of psycholinguistics for...

Another dozen tell the way

software for simulating search may...



Old slate slab floor with old blue lino

old blue units with shelves collapsing

under the weight of china


Hospital Room

An endless eternity ending

The view over the town now strangely blurred

A whispered word

She never heard


The bedroom

Kneeling on the bed

He sees stars

in the perfect black

above the shadow trees

And hears an owl


◄ The Poet's Problem

Gower ►


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Martin Elder

Sun 28th Jan 2018 17:45

This is a great poem leading the reader from room to room. I can't help feeling that this could lead into a at least a shorty story if not a novel
Nice one

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