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The Table


I was sitting there, like I do every day,

reading to a backdrop of coffee and music; the poetry

open in front of me by turns inspiring and grilling me,

demanding whether I would ever write another poem again.

Before I could answer, the table Ė

the very table where I sat Ė put its oar in.


It rowed right back to the beginnings of this flat,

the time I moved in, and an old friend Ė the deal we struck

on the place; how difficult he could be, how vain and angry,

how seemingly generous.  His mother, I remembered,

had died not long before, leaving him nothing

but the contents of the home he had rented for her,

and giving away what little she had was his way

of saying one last goodbye.  Her dining table and its four chairs

came to me: the sweetener, I realised later

of one of the many one-sided deals with which he whipped the world

by way of reclaiming what she hadnít left him.


I canít remember when I last saw him,

but every so often he writes, claiming money.

I sit down at the table and reply, referring him once more

to the small print of our deal.  He argues,

gets nowhere, disappears again.

The bitterness resonates in the wood like death-watch;

I make a mental note to stop living off this table, this false charity,

rid myself of this infestation of the mind, the soul.

And then I think, Christ, you know!  Itís only a table,

it does its job.  There are so many things to buy,

your money only goes so farÖ can you really afford this vanity,

this bitterness, this anger?  These feelings

youíve inherited from this man?


And I sit there again, wondering what the answer really is:

to stick with it, carry on as I have done all these years,

doing all the everyday things people do at tables,

paying homage to its purity by not sinking to its giverís level?

Or should I stand up, be proud, fork out at last

for a new table, a clean slate, a new life?

Do what you like, says the poetry in front of me:

but if you ever really think this table is just a table

you really will never write a poem again.




(c) Richard Cooper 2003



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