Afternoon Tea at The Ritz
Susan Wilson, dressed up for
I can play the part in full costume
of an unworn dress and jacket
and a clip clop of shoes down the stairs
to the tube from a rain which hurried
from a bus on a bad traffic day.
Here, on this film set, I am calm,
a monochrome against its technicolour
and I am ready for my close-up.
We begin to take our places
as a grand piano plays the overture.
I can play the part for an audience:
sandwiches and cakes, stacked like bullion,
silver pots with a glint in their eyes,
china crockery smiling without a crack
and trollies, like servants at my command.
Mobile fingers press me into every scene.
Anybody can come here but not everybody will.
Some are simply born for it, darling
and the admission price is that ridiculous.
I can play the part using the props
like the shelf under the table for my handbag –
no dancing around it on this marble floor.
I feel the scratch of the black strap
against the nylon of my knees.
Most people spend their money elsewhere
like me, on any other, normal, day,
but today a very kind friend will incur
some serious weight loss on her credit card.
I can play the part for a while
and there really is a doggy bag for cakes,
not so much a bag as a canine case,
logo-embossed with two fancy flaps
that will come undone for me
on the bus beside an older woman
who reviews me with a razor,
as if I belonged elsewhere
and should have stayed there
but I’m nearly home now
and she has spoiled my day
and the finale of my performance
by slicing up the end of my script.
I can play the part – any part –
in full costume, for an audience,
using the props, for a while.
Perhaps I didn’t play it well enough,
perhaps I played it too well, today.
If you have any thoughts about this poem, Susan Wilson would be
pleased to hear them