No Dues

(For Naomi, who walked the last mile with me)


It took some doing.
Room to room, some
Much frequented, some
I’d never seen. The Estate
Office, for instance, being
So close to the Ladies, you
Would think, on any one
Of the many days I
Slept, bathed, re-adjusted
Myself in the midst of
Classes, commutes, pangs
Of hunger, horror,
Exhaustion. You
Would think the Estate
Office would have fallen
In my way. But they
Were the most reluctant
To sign off on the steps – millions –
That my feet walked, treading
Their real estate. Of what use
But in this one room: ‘No Dues’.

The Library, where I sit
Forever in an attitude of
Years ago – they forgot the year.
They fixed it but I sit there still
Like a reader the years refuse
To budge: ‘No Dues’.
And for the many ways and
Many days in which they fed me
The walk from the Café
To the Mess merely led me
To affectionate cooking crews:
‘No Dues’.

But the corridors did not sign
And the rooms I passed ignored
The paper I clutched. Mine
Was the eye that took in
The tiles, the bricks, stored
With years, the voices, the
Faces I feared to look in,
That I would not let go
Which I would not let loose;
What would they sign? ‘No Dues’?

What manner of reckoning requires
Such an accounting of desires?
Would the Chapel where I still
Take off my shoes, produce a bill
With ‘No Dues’? The terraces,
Which elevated our poems and views,
Let me hop back in? ‘No Dues’?
What manner of debt persists
What coinage still resists
What piece of paper insists
That I fall for this elaborate ruse
And leave this place with no dues?


2 thoughts on “No Dues

  1. I usually resist writing long poems – these last few are the longest I’ve ever written; partly because I’m nervous about it, but recently I find I write more in the ‘spoken word poetry’ format which is longer, more colloquial. I don’t know if it’s best or not to leave things unspoken in the reader’s head 🙂


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