The Landlady – P.K. Page

Illustration from 1867 U.S. edition of Martin ...

Through sepia air the boarders come and go,

impersonal as trains. Pass silently

the craving silence swallowing her speech;

click doors like shutters on her camera eye.

 

Because of her their lives become exact:

their entrances and exits are designed;

phone calls are cryptic. Oh, her ticklish ears

advance and fall back stunned.

 

Nothing is unprepared. They hold the walls

about them as they weep or laugh. Each face

is dialled to zero publicly. She peers

stippled with curious flesh;

 

pads on the patient landing like a pulse,

unlocks their keyholes with the wire of sight,

searches their rooms for clues when they are out,

pricks when they come home late.

 

Wonders when they are quiet, jumps when they move,

dreams that they dope or drink, trembles to know

the traffic of their brains, jaywalks their street

in clumsy shoes.

 

Yet knows them better than their closest friends:

their cupboards and the secrets of their drawers,

their books, their private mail, their photographs

are theirs and hers.

 

Knows when they wash, how frequently their clothes

go to the cleaners, what they like to eat,

their curvature of health, but even so

is not content.

 

And like a lover must know all, all, all.

Prays she may catch them unprepared at last

and palm the dreadful riddle of their skulls–

hoping the worst.

 

P.K. Page.

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