The ordinary state of things

by Meirion Jordan

The ordinary state of things

for George Szirtes


In a bar

where rain pours down the walls,

the ceiling daubed

with cubist ravings of a suicide,


its one window

looking out

on a courtyard where great-aunts,

some of them six feet tall,


go to light cheap Russian cigarettes

and sit giving death the evil eye,

or Napoleon,

or whatever pipsqueak is passing,


the record player knows only

Gloomy Sunday,

and the music strikes up

with angles stranger than the door-jambs


as though a Jazz-band

trapped in the caved cellar

by a Soviet bomb

had forgotten to ask for their rider


or a Roma

dressed in an ancient morning-suit

was pulling the strings from his fiddle

as it neighs in disappointment -


and listening to this

in another century

on a phonograph

carved in the shape of an owl


bequeathed by a long-forgotten

Transylvanian grandmother

is the man who takes off his jacket



pours out the tea

and welcomes his guests

protesting that this, too,

is the ordinary state of things.

© Meirion Jordan