O, sleepy red-eyed muse
We live in a grim & silly year
Superstars are adored & abandoned.
Cuban film directors, Russian costume,
Modern dance: lauded, discarded.
The anti-hero is discredited,
Even suited.
What a relentless bloody fray.
A woman I know spent a million
At Van Cleef & Arpels.
"So you know it wasn't her only million".

In New York,
At Alliance Francaise
Two dancers suddenly look away
From each other.

For one sixtieth of a second
The camera catches their shared expression
A grimace of untainted ennui.

Drawn away
To London to stay
In other rooms;
Dressing in the window,
Late sleeper stretched
On old crested family sheets,
Hand-me-downs from entitled days.
Clouded references abound:
Rimbaud's bowed windows
Frame, in black, views
Of Dickens's hospital alley
Above La Capanina.

Let's see now, there was a late night
Way below stairs
Initiated by a Lithuanian
To the mysteries of The Shade.
For 5 quid, admission
& a watery pint.

How vivid the women
Who arrive alone & perform.
How drab the men
Propped along the wall
Under slanted, pleated red shades.
Such paltry ambitions.
The plaster sconces cast a crooked glow.

Beyond age, memory, desire,
No recorded music can awaken
Nor Spanish champagne revive, no,
Nor rented caressing hand prevail
When nature has turned back.

The mirrors frame, dissect
The anatomy of a fire-eater,
Corseted, in heels
Dancing to that familiar tune
We can't remember.
Then cash & cassette dumped
Into black patent carry-all
Each dancer departs
For venues in Islington
Or even far beyond.

The night wears on.
The rushing up & down
The narrow stairs has stopped.
A door held open, a cigarette's glow
& later, late in the morning
Breakfast with someone
Or alone
And a quick swim
In the chilly Serpentine.


*"Lorelei" is published in The Society Club's "Poetry Nights: An Anthology"

                                                                                                                              Michael James O'Brien      is a photographer and poet.

                                                                                                                           Michael James O'Brien is a photographer and poet.