The Shout (audio only)
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In later life I retired from poetry,
ploughed the profits
into a family restaurant
in the town of Holzminden, in lower Saxony.
It was small and traditional:
dark wood panelling, deer antlers,
linen tablecloths and red candles,
one beer tap on the bar
and a dish of the day, usually
Bauernschnitzel. Weekends were busy,
pensioners wanting the set meal, though
year on year takings were falling.
Some nights the old gang came in –
Jackie, Max, Lavinia,
Mike not looking at all himself,
and I’d close the kitchen,
Which reminds me. He appeared at noon, asking for water. He’d walked from town after losing his job, leaving me a note for his wife and his brother and locking his dog in the coal bunker. We made him a bed and he slept till Monday. A week went by and he hung up his coat. Then a month, and not a stroke of work, a word of thanks, a farthing of rent or a sign of him leaving. One evening he mentioned a recipe for smooth, seedless gooseberry sorbet but by then I was tired of him: taking pocket money from my boy at cards, sucking up to my wife and on his last night sizing up my daughter.