Every Place that you left is Eden in some way.
Rooms where for good or for ill—things died.
In this room, at that desk, I must have written
my masterpieces of misogyny
(through this knowledge would only come to me
far on the other side of the illusion).
One window faced onto St. Michael’s Street.
Outside the homeless shelter—now a Bill’s—
star speakers would arrive in Benzes, Rolls.
I Blu-Tacked postcards to a lilac sheet
of sugar paper: was that the same year?
The gourmet vegetarian sausages
we cooked hungover were burnt to a crisp;
dough-soft inside. A rag rug on the floor
I still have now. I threw up in the sink
(a sign below about the “Rodding Eye”)
from dawn till six, the day of the goodbye
meal Ally had planned for me at Brasserie Blanc.
Lycée Jean Perrin
In Charlie’s flat—I barely know the contours
of what was there. I know what happened in it.
On nitrous, once, I passed out for a minute
that nothing in me wishes to restore.
Another night, I hopped the green steel gate
I couldn’t open; walked the tramlines home
to Place Viarme, and back to find the phone
I never did find (God knows in what state).
There was a party when Lindsey kissed Kate;
a night when someone stole two chicken fillets;
pizza, and football games I played, unwilling
to be left out; a neighbor who complained.
The laptop loud on Traktor, matching beats.
A photo of his girlfriend near his bed.
Bastien picked me up the last night; sad
to remember, now we barely even speak.
In what some rower called “the Arab Staircase,”
I tried and failed to turn tea into sex.
Deep green armchairs. The question of “What’s next?”
not just at three. That bathroom was the last place
I’ll ever make filled pasta in a bowl
with kettle, sieve, jarred pesto, grated cheddar.
There must have been a desk. A single bed,
two sets of brown sheets. Posters on the wall
for books I’d read with different cover art.
There was a mantelpiece on which I leant
French biscuit adverts—statements of intent,
sophistication stamped on A4 card.
The last weeks saw it filled with props for filming,
a generator. I brought back a girl
who held me till I broke my shameful spell;
who asked if I’d tried to hide her, that first morning.
1 Rue Sarrazin
In the top-floor flat, Nantes, Rue Sarrazin:
a couch with orange cushions no one chose;
the floor (stone, somehow?) cold against my toes;
a kitchenette I’ll never use again.
There was a cupboard lined with bathroom tiles
our jovial, vague landlord tried to fit
a shower in: the plumbing wouldn’t stretch
that far, he told us once, after a while—
so there they stayed. Jovanna had a map
of Europe, countries marked with playground slurs,
and though I almost never spoke to her,
one day I came back from a weekend trip
to find the condoms missing from my wardrobe.
The wall pitched steep above my bed; a window
looked on the never open church below,
roof ringed with angels. I left without a note.
In the old Vauxhall Met Police HQ
there were blue, corrugated carpet tiles
and corridors which seemed to stretch for miles
between the toilets and the large, blank rooms
Lydia and her artist friends were renting
at bargain rates: the scheme kept squatters out.
They’d built a long, rough table. No amount
of shelves could make the kitchen feel less empty.
Mattresses on the ground. The windows looked
over the Thames: this was no student skyline.
It had the feel of an abandoned high-rise.
I stopped to buy Portuguese chocolate milk
each morning, walking to an internship:
for what? It led nowhere, since I’ve forgotten.
The owners finally kicked out the guardians.
For all I know, they might be demolishing it.
In Helen’s house, which we can’t go to now:
rich faded rugs, a large flatscreen TV,
cases of red wine shipped from overseas
to save in bulk, I think—I forget how.
There was a tree once, made from stacking books;
a lime-green kitchen where we never went;
the gate, left open to the elements,
creaked like the stairs. Apparently, it leaked.
Helen took baths and disappeared for hours.
There was a patio where we got high,
where pigeons shat, were shot, and came to die;
a teddy sewn from scraps of other bears.
There was, eventually, a crystal skull
loaded with gin. Stuffed rodents. Hocus-pocus.
Sated with rent, the landlord gave them notice.
It had been months, by then, since I’d seen it full.
51 Ely Street
In Ely Street (pronounced the Fenland way,
not like the prophet, as I would insist),
the floor was red stone flags. Once, as a guest,
having somehow contrived to snap my key
in my own lock, I spent a night half-frozen
on a ratty couch beneath low Tudor beams;
a diagram for cribbing Cymbeline
and Hamlet on the wall. Each time I opened
the shonky bathroom door, the wrought-iron latch
had to be fought against. Dozens would drink
here, leave their mugs and glasses by the sink.
The backyard: weeds, barbecue trays, and ash.
And I was happy there. We praised Sankt Hans,
sang hver by har sin heks and ate charred Quorn,
understood hygge—friendship, keeping warm.
Someone’s rejigged the furniture, like best-laid plans.
In our apartment, by the standing lamp,
these are the things I’ll fix while I am able:
that jasmine plant. That marbled coffee table.
Socks slung over that clotheshorse: some still damp.
This flatpack sideboard, with the doors stove in.
This ten-meter TV extension lead.
These shiny cushion covers which you sewed
after about four months of promising.
Those salt-dough ducks, whose rough pearlescent sheen
soared over the eBay identikit.
That recess which you joked could hold a crib,
which doesn’t mean a joke is all you mean.
These stacks and stacks of books we’ll never read.
This open map. Those frames. That uncapped pen.
This rug I found a place for in the end.
This warm night. This unanswered text. This need.