The Reading: A Nightmare

Noon: A letter arrives stating (but, please,
no promises) I may be called on to read
my work, then a putative date and place.

3pm siesta: Courtesy of Dream Air International
all at once I’m there and ahead of schedule –
Meaning, to be specific, at the bar nextdoor.
Already wine flows freely. Still unsure
when or whether my turn will come, I swill
the stuff in obfuscating draughts
which’d give even a Dylan Thomas pause...

As soon as my speech begins to slur
and it gets tricky keeping vertical
I’m beckoned, noon’s possibility made firm:
The audience have been waiting some time.
They sit sober as judges; in their midst
the smooth white hair of a major minor poet
and editor who’s been rejecting my verse,
off and on, for fifteen years or more.

The scene shifting to dire slow motion:
Stranded anywhere between um and er,
I realise that, save some unfinished scraps,
I’ve left all my manuscripts back home...
Would people mind waiting till my partner –
a plane-fare or so away – fetches them?
The request ends up a last-ditch splutter.

Meanwhile, in the mail, another letter:
Same editor claiming my last submission
is plagiarised from something of his own
which, naturally, I have never read...

At this point I wake up, stage turns bed;
just in case dreams or nightmares come true,
I switch on the light, fumble for a biro,
start, between silences, to set this down...

Martin Bennett | Mudlark No. 12
Contents | Song of the Flags