In later life I retired from poetry,
ploughed the profits
into a family restaurant
in the town of Holzminden, in lower Saxony.
 
It was small and traditional:
dark wood panelling, deer antlers,
linen tablecloths and red candles,
one beer tap on the bar
 
and a dish of the day, usually
Bauernschnitzel. Weekends were busy,
pensioners wanting the set meal, though
year on year takings were falling.
 
Some nights the old gang came in—
Jackie, Max, Lavinia,
Mike not looking at all himself,
and I’d close the kitchen,
 
hang up my striped apron,
take a bottle of peach schnapps
from the top shelf and say,
“Mind if I join you?”
 
“Are we dead yet?” someone would ask.
Then with a plastic toothpick
I’d draw blood from my little finger
to prove we were still among the living.
 
From the veranda we’d breathe new scents
from the perfume distillery over the river,
or watch the skyline
for the nuclear twilight.

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