Beethoven’s Bust. – Lesley Quayle

Beethoven’s Bust.

Beethoven’s bust is broken, a feather-duster casualty,
stoic in Sellotape – a fix of yellowed strips and super-glue –
propped up in hot-flush-corner where ladies of a certain age
take turns to fan themselves with laminated wine lists.

Beethoven’s reconstructed eyes, one higher than the other,
their botched and sticky gaze a hint of former la-di-da,
observe the glow, the menu wafting haze,
study the corner where old men sit,

noses down, a contemplation of pint and pie and mushy peas,
bald heads, their greasy caps shucked off in peeling heat;
they smell of sweat and gravy. No conversation, a rattle of mucus,
a crack of bones, the slap of chapping dominoes to bless

their fiefdom while, beneath planked tables, tired dogs fold
their skinny, creaking limbs to small confines, and snore.
Where Ursula, the counterfeit coquette, a fugitive from
hot-flush-corner, meets the edgelands of age

with carmine pouts and an overdose of rouge,
stumbles over port and lemon, targeting the vacant
laps of young men, who flock together,
migrating from her autumnal reaches.

The fire flickers, a lantern show over brass and warm mahogany,
night slides through windows in reds and pinks and gold.
In come the farmhands, in their overalls and mud-caked boots,
a man who does Times’ crosswords, cider drinkers, ale suppers,

Red Biddy quaffers, white wine connoisseurs, back-slappers,
lone wolves, the gluggers and sippers, the one who’s always
shown the door, yer barred, the one who’s nightly taken home
and put to bed – the piano player, assaulting keys till

stone walls bulge and air parts, such is the cacophony,
and all the mouths are out of sync and fill the bar
with one long baritone, the till, a treble dissonance,
the metal ting. Outside, smokers light up, inhale and sigh.


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet. A folk/blues singer and editor, she has a collection, Sessions (Indigo Dreams) and a pamphlet Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce) and her latest pamphlet Black Bicycle published in May by 4Word.

Footsteps. – Lesley Quayle


Footsteps behind her. Two miles home in the blackout. Pinhole of light,
hooded torch. Blind trams and windows. Her with a hatpin

at the ready. The walk downhill. From dark closes, a cloister
of shadows and breezes dissembling in stairwells. She knows he’s there

by the clip of his boots and the tarry smell of Senior Service. What
an eejit. Furtive into a close, torch off, and he tramps on by,

doesn’t know she has him in her sights. Footsteps behind him.
“Hey, stupid appearance.” He’s there like a sick calf, struck dumb.

And he only wanted to see her safe, so he did, in the long dark
of a two mile walk. Her with the wicked hatpin, pokes it back

into her beret.
……………………….Sixty years on and she’s lost without him,
in the long dark and the blackout and the walk downhill.


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet; she is also a folk/blues singer. A former editor of Leeds based poetry magazine, Aireings, her latest pamphlet, Black Bicycle, was published in May of this year by 4Word press.

I Don’t Want to Dance. – Lesley Quayle

I Don’t Want to Dance.

I don’t want to dance.

Coralled by your youthful strong-arm,
pinned against the wall’s sharp corner,
and your red mouth ajar, breath smoky,
soured by lager, a threat pending on my cheek.

I don’t want to dance.

Your half closed eyes are feral.
I bleed panic, like a wounded bird,
your oiled entreaties wheedling in my ear,
sleekit through the wild lark of music.

I don’t want to dance.

Your leg against mine, slight, reinforcing pressure,
and your drumming heart, a carnal encampment,
brimmed with intent and there’s nothing between us
but eyes and breath so you close in to taste my fear.

When I push you, there’s scant resistance,
only a wink, lips stretched over a sneer,
‘You’re a disappointment, darlin’ so you are.’


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, living in deepest, darkest Dorset. She’s also a folk/blues singer and co-organiser of a music club, wife of one, mother of four and grandma of three (and a half.)

One Bottle – Six Glasses. – Lesley Quayle

One Bottle – Six Glasses.
This row seems more serious – we have decided not to forgive.
I’m down here with the expensive bottle I was saving

for Christmas.  You’re upstairs, in bed, restlessly asleep, a frown
in your dreams.  I pull the cork and pour myself a full glass,

red as an open heart.  Those things we said, we meant – when hurt
we strike out like snarling strangers then crumble into remorse.

It’s commonplace. This time – another glass of wine – we didn’t
make things right,  bumped away from each other, bruised, sad,

your eyes rejecting mine like an awkward stranger.  A refill.  My pain
rearranges itself into rage.  I scavenge your selfish bones, pick your

arguments bare.  Guilt settles on me like a bad debt.  Reach for the
bottle, fill up the glass.  There’s a chasm between us, the rift grows wider

by the hour but I am moulded in stone and hard and cold and slow.  Your
familiar, gentle face is set for war.  More wine. I’m drowning wounds

in wine.  It stings like brine. I want you to wake up.  I want to want to
wrap my arms around your familiar feel, your smell, your skin.  But

I don’t.  Here in the dark, alone seems necessary.
The destroyer in me is out, the last glass spilt.


First Published in The Interpreter’s House

Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prizewinning poet, living in deepest, darkest Dorset. She’s also a folk/blues singer and co-organiser of a music club, wife of one, mother of four and grandma of three (and a half.)