Postcards from Malthusia DAY SIXTEEN: Sean O’Brien

The Desks


I dream of how, when we have gone, the city turns

To introspection, seeking themes and patterns

From innumerable instances. Where to begin?

Why not the dank accommodation shadows reach

Beneath a railway arch, or better still, the stairs descending

Past the nearby offices of lawyers and comedians,

Deeper than the scope of public scrutiny –

The sort of thing I’d choose, if I existed –

Ending in a place, if that is what it is,

Where no attempt at decoration has been made,

With one anachronistic admonition

Bolted to the wall, concerning boiler-ash,

And next to that a single door, too wide, too low,

That opens on a chamber whose far end is not shown,

At which innumerable desks and chairs are aimed,

Awaiting God knows what examination.




Sean O’Brien‘s tenth collection, IT SAYS HERE, is due out from Picador in September. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. To the delight of his nearest and dearest and the neighbours, he has decided not to take up the trombone, probably.

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