William (working title)

The whistling kettle calls the lads from the scaffold where they hang
wallpaper in the drawing room of the house where Eric sang.
When Eric sang he owned this house. He owned this pool, these grounds.
The neighbours, although far away, could not escape the sounds,
nor fail to see the party lights that lit the beach and hacks
who wrote down every Eric word and sent them out by fax
so the world would know what Eric thought, long as the public paid
to see him sing, bought his CDs. Oh, Eric had it made.
The parties ended long ago. There’s not been one for weeks
and pop fans being what they are, these days no groupie seeks
to climb the trellis, breach the wall, or bridge the crocky moat
and beg for Eric’s autograph or make out in his boat.

The lads descend the scaffolding for jokes and smokes and tea,
but one of them, once Eric fan, cannot let it be.
He’s heard new owners bought this place, but bought it when, from whom?
He drains his tea, gets all of it, and wanders from the room.
He pads the halls, nobody calls and he drifts up the stairs
into a suite with its own hall, and rows of sateen chairs
with ‘Eric, God’s Own Voice’ stitched along each wide char’s back,
and cowboy throw rugs on the floor, three windows painted black,
and three doors opening from that hall. The first door isn’t locked,
so William, the once Eric fan, steals time and steels his pride,
and steps across the portal. The door locks. He’s inside.

The room is dark but William hears a sound like spiralling wind,
a sound like models giving up on always being thin.
A hopeless sound, like dirty souls washed soapless till it hurts,
a sound like icy house-mice feet making tracks up skirts.
The sound a headless horseman laughs when jokes are told at wakes,
thinks William, giving up on bold, and hoping that what shakes
his trousers, sheens his shirt, and chills his marrow six degrees
is nothing. No chance, William. There it is again. A sneeze?
A candle lights, nigh gutters out while muttering to itself
and casting light, aspersions, and a pall down from the shelf
it shares with books, a Fender, and a Gibson painted red.
It lights the room enough to lime what’s lying in the bed.

He see four posters, and a giant humongous hairy head
and thinks, Oh, Lord, it’s Eric in a Black Watch tartan spread.
But Eric looked much younger in the photos William’s seen
and the whirl of fur he’s gaping at looks ancient and obscene.
‘You’re old,’ falters William. ‘Old girlfriends give out rumours that you’re dead.’
Six eyes go wide, stare William down. ‘That’s what the tabloids said,’
he adds, and then he snivels, like he did in grammar school
on days the county doctor dosed each pupil down with shots
to ward off illness that might spread beyond the young have-nots
and threaten gentry’s children in the houses on the shore
like this house where once Eric sang. A cat says, ‘Nevermore.’

‘You’re raving,’ whispers William. ‘I am Ada,’ says the cat.
‘Ada Pose. Here’s Randy Owl. Oh yes, and as to that,
that sleepy headed giant with its ridge of random hair,
you can call her by her Christian name: Gladys, the cross-eyed bear.
We came to jam with Eric, thought we’d go up to his room
but there were three doors. We chose this one. Nothing here but Gloom.
No Eric here, no music, though most midnights we hear notes
from meringues and salsas, and our Gladys here emotes
and Randy bends the Fender till the current overloads
leave for sound just silence — plus the dripping of commodes
we hear beyond the staircase. No, we don’t know where it leads.
We lie here lost in lassitude, forgetful of our needs.

Ada scratches Randy and he flaps his wings and howls.
Although he doesn’t give a hoot he can’t ignore her rowels
and so he rises, shouting, ‘Eric! How could I have forgot?’
‘Forgotten,’ mumbles Gladys. ‘I’m shocked to learn an owl has not
the least idea of verbs. How can we trust their wisdom since
they misuse tense?’ The others look at Gladys with a wince
and William says, ‘Now that I’ve half saved you — now that you’re awake —
let’s leave this mausoleum. Grab the Gibson — it’s a fake —
and gut it of its strings, combine them in a single line
we can pay out going down those stairs, in case we cannot find
the exit, or it’s watery: one that harbours Jaws the Shark.
‘We won’t need twine,’ says Ada. ‘Cats see well in the dark.’

Gladys, William, Randy and Ada leave the Gibson in the room
and start descending what turns out to be a hundred stairs.
The owl and cat are cheered up when they sight a witch’s broom.
They would do, being familiars, but the sighting sets the bear’s
fur on Up and claws on Drive, as she rushes past and stares … …

[to be continued / finished / rewritten / written <s> ]

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