clive’s familiar

Clive lives in a grotto
(portmanteau word: rotten, grot and odour)
there’s a foetid curtain hanging across the bottom of the stairs
that reminds me of those doors
you used to bang through on the ghost train
– Watch out! There are horrors ahead!

Clive is not sitting in his armchair
so much as being slowly consumed by it
he’s smoking a fag, artfully balancing
a long and crooked stack of ash
with the wizened fingers of a mummified count
‘hello’ he says. ‘And who might you be?’

Clive doesn’t want any help, thank you
he’s quite happy as he is
he already has a heap of equipment
(toilet aid, perching stool, zimmer frame)
tossed in a bath that last saw water
when Nasser was blockading the canal

Clive has a cat on his lap, a placid brindle coloured animal
(though it’s perfectly possible that, along with everything else,
the walls, the furniture and me, probably,
it’s actually a snow white cat kippered by all the smoke)
‘He’s lovely,’ I say. ‘What’s his name?’
‘She!’ says Clive, losing his ash. ‘It’s a girl. And I call her Thingummy’.

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