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. http://www.4word.org/titles/