I left the rural town in Gascony
after camping in its graveyard
for a week with dog-eared poetry
then tobacco country, ratatouille,
tomatoes nabbed from fields
in the dead hours of afternoon.
At Lautrec, the Sisters gave out soup
and rustic loaves whose crusts
cracked and collapsed like old timber;
a madman with a shaven head
and heavy crucifix around his neck
persuaded me to drink with him.
Finishing one bottle he went off
for more – I thought to escape
but just sat there and made no move
and near my feet, our cigarette stubs
like spent shells buried in the dust:
one for each year of a misspent youth.
John Short lives in Liverpool and has had poems and stories in magazines around the world. Forthcoming in The Blue Nib, Sarasvati, Marble Poetry and Poetry Salzburg Review, his full collection Those Ghosts (Beaten Track Publishing) will appear later this year.
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