CAROL ANN DUFFY: Café Royal

He arrives too late to tell him how it will be.
Oscar is gone. Alone, he orders hock,
sips in the style of an earlier century
in glamorous mirrors under the clocks.

He would like to live then now, suddenly find
himself early, nod to Harris and Shaw;
then sit alone at his table, biding his time
till the Lord of Language stands at the door.

So tall. Breathing. He is the boy who fades away
as Oscar laughingly draws up a chair.
A hundred years on he longs at the bar to say
Dear, I know where you’re going. Don’t go there.

But pays for his drink, still tasting the wine’s sweet fruit,
and leaves. It matters how everyone dies,
he thinks, half-smiles at an older man in a suit
who stares at his terrible, wonderful eyes.