Alan Morrison

Few Never Envy

All I have: this shabby room

furnished grandma-style:

carpet muddy umber,

thin beige curtains pile

like luminous mosquito nets

over the draughty window-pane.

A lacquered table’s centre-piece

where I eat cold meals, scrimp an aim

inkling in a typewriter.

Plastic clatter of tone-deaf keys

scores each curtained, fiction-night:

a blind mind tinkling ivories.

Breaks spent on a spineless bed;

fingers brush the woodchip Braille,

step across the blue-tack path,

trip to creak of banister-rail.

I stare up at a blanched Van Gogh

by the toothpaste-spattered sink;

the ticking of the crippled clock

decides it isn't time to think;

I rise to wash: chalky water

chokes out to the rusty squeak

of the stiffer tap; over my shoulder

a back-to-front Thirty Bob A Week

reflects in the mirror that traps me.

Smoking soothes as doubts unroll.

My only other luxuries: tea

and sleeping pills when I get my dole

of hardship maintenance that feeds

my lapsed Protestant shame

(though I was born a Catholic

I'm English all the same).

Few never envy others' lives

with their ambitions in arrears;

only thoughts that telescope

help one cope – focused years

blur the edges of fogged progress.

Lungs fangled for spearmint fags

purse their pockets. Abstracts heap

like half-p’s in the money bags.

Alan Morrison © 2001/2006/2008

First published in Don't Think of Tigers (The Do Not Press, 2001)

The Mansion Gardens (Paula Brown, 2006) - which can be downloaded at