There was a time when this bar was busy
Even at two on a Tuesday afternoon,
Tongues bloating with beer, talk nicotine stained
And perhaps rather louder than needs be.
Racing on the telly, of course, sound down,
No one watching apparently, except
A snort and the careless, but accurate,
Toss of a scrunched slip into an ashtray.
In the backroom, just passed the pungent bogs,
Over pints of scotch and shared roll ups, young
Republicans plotted revolution
Or their latest schism into factions
Over whose turn it was to get the next round.
At that very table in the corner,
Fancy that still here after all these years,
Sat the bloke, brown ale and schooner, reading
Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus,
In Latin. Always wore a tweed sports jacket,
Pockets torn from being the side saddles
Of his second hand library, and that
Ridiculous comb-over, but not from
Vanity, more disdain. He never smoked.
Then the Tuesday he wasn’t there, nor the next
And never again. For many a week
His chair stayed empty, no one would sit there
No matter how busy the bar, until
The lassie who, nearly paralytic,
Flopped down into it one Friday evening
And slept the night away across the table.
A few days later council workmen came
And daubed double yellow lines all along
By the kerb just outside. From then, it seems,
The sun never again managed to shine
Directly through the Victorian stained glass
That is still, nonetheless, quite a feature
Of the upper casement of the front window.