Mortimer: Poem




Even before he arrived, he’d become a thing –

at the dinner table his chair was there, and was his chair, before we knew a thing

about the kind of man he’d be. Which was an absent man,

for his luggage arrived and spent a day in his room before the man

himself caught up with it. After that it was footsteps

along the oh-so-green carpet outside our rooms, and even footsteps

in snow back from the library.

We searched for his books in the library

and found that he’d been here at least twice before

but had only left behind his copies of other writer’s books. Before

too long we were asking the Director if we’d ever meet

him. The Director said, in his usual way, ‘What exactly do you mean by “meet”?’

At every dinner

we speculated about why he hadn’t joined us for dinner.

Finally, on the sixth day, during which three bananas

disappeared from the fruit bowl, only to be replaced by different, greener bananas,

Mortimer came quietly down the stairs. Mortimer

walked slowly through the hall. Mortimer

said ‘Hello’ to the Director. Mortimer

looked at us and said, ‘Why did you call me “Mortimer”?’




Hawthornden, 2018

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