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It’s the staleshit smell hanging under the perfume in the white-tiled shopping-mall toilet
It’s the bony old cat in the house of the chubby-faced students
It’s the streak of smog above the blue and white beachfront
It’s the distant siren
It’s the one string that won’t stay in tune
It’s whoever grew old, then young, then died
It’s the black edge around the heart we repeatedly draw
It’s my one purple nail
It’s my arms not reaching
It’s going back out there

(First published in Cottonmouth)

The space

There’s a live radio version from 2008 (before I had vocal lessons) here.

It’s midnight in Dream city again,
with its dark derelict house-rows,
dubious kitchens, tables for two,
corner bars. Where are the friends I seek?

Not in that bar — that’s all folk music.
I drop off my mother there. You’ll like this, I say.
I drop her off and walk alone
past people who no longer scare me
now that I’ve dropped her off.

I walk a couple of blocks of my dream-streets
to another bar. Setanta Sports, Guinness,
small, low, grotty.
My friends are there. They say hello.
They sit and stand around the room.
They are leaving a space for someone
who should be there, but has been lost.

I get a beer, sit by the wall. I’m next to the space.
I listen to their talk.
A senior man storytells, standing up,
projecting his voice over the heads of the gathering.
I hear him but his words don’t touch me.
I sit with my beer, quietly breathing, next to the space.

In walks an old colleague of mine, someone from reality.
He used to have curly red hair and a big horsey mouth.
Now his hair is wispy grey and his face has shrivelled.
But I can say his name. He stands in front of me
and tries to guess who I am.
But he doesn’t know me without my mother.

I don’t tell him. He keeps asking.
I hear him but his words don’t touch me.
I hear him but his words don’t touch me.
I sit with my beer, quietly breathing, next to the space.