I wrote this poem after seeing a small b&w photo of an old lady drinking tea in a cafe in Cromer, in the guardian's excellent Guide to Photography. In a way, I suppose I'm imitating Edwin Morgan's Instamatic Poems, but at the time I didn't think about that. Rather, I was overcome by memories and a sense of pathos - and those memories were in colour. I deliberately refrained from reproducing the photo - the poem should after all be able to stand alone.
Anyone who remembers my previous struggles with line layouts in html will note that I seem to have solved the problem!
CAFÉ IN CROMER
On a bleak sea promenade
where the seagulls soar and scream
lights behind a steamed window
promise warmth and refuge from the
grey wind that carries rain.
People hunch among the dark tables
and smeared vinyl of the floor.
Pleasure? Do we visit
such places for pleasure or
need? A thick white cup
half-full of pale brown
- the tint of which says tea, tea
babied by over-milking –
and that nameless lump
yellow on the plate, a thin
line of red promising sweetness:
will these items sustain
The grim posture, the
downturn of an old woman’s mouth
defy speculation. Who can know
what need brings her here,
what loneliness in a tidy flat
over a dust-flecked hearth?