Paradise

A dullish day. I died and went
to heaven. Climb and price were steep,
the receptionist bored, painting her lids
with tetchy indifference. Out the front
is no place for a heart as hard as
hers. She wore designer crepe,

gestured the register, pursed her face.
She'd been Work Experience, that was plain
in my view; and they'd kept her on
to practise her natural knack, caprice,
because she was cheap. Her faint disdain
put paid to the reckless, the really keen

customers jumping her marble counter.
Soon they were sheep, and being fleeced
as they ushered themselves through great gates
of imitation pearl. To saunter
was frowned on, and no-one sensible scoots,
tootles into eternity. Haste

is waste: this saw was heaven's legend,
was tacked on the shelves behind her head.
I pushed through the punters, lugging my soul
(which was heavier than I'd ever imagined),
striking conversations like matches. The deal
was simple; if you had been good -

and I had given sin two fingers -
they made parole a permanent estate.
Your liberty was infinite,
provided that you didn't anger
the butlers, adjust the thermostat
or giddily enact the goat.

Pleasure was metaphysical,
a trick the merest slip of a tongue
could lick into shapelessness. The rest
wasn't worth a candle. I had a fling
with an angel, perhaps the one who fell.
By day, you'd have found me laying ghosts.

As hotels go, it had its stars:
the service was as smooth as cream
coursing the length of a stainless sluice.
I propped the bars up, spending hours
tipping exotic drinks in my face.
It was permissible. No blame

attached to the act. I signed the chits;
flashed my key at attendant wraiths;
grew cool as an undertaker's thumb.
You wouldn't credit it, but death's
morbid. It is a maw for cheats
chalking the eyes of corpses. Some

sized me like real professionals,
gauging how gullible I might prove
if approached. They felt my pulses race
like rabbits, and moved to someone else
who suited their brand of blarney. Twice
I watched them watch the guests arrive,

and rob them of speech. Immortal spivs
had colonised the afterlife!
Conscience was trinket, belief a bauble
purchased by packs of strolling thieves:
there was no-one who didn't have a dibble,
once they'd clocked their souls were safe.

Exit was easy. You made complaints
to the bruiser who wore a rodent suit,
completed forms. They packed your bags
with fibs by the firkin, made you rinse
the sweat from your palms, lifted your legs
over parapets, and threw you straight

down. It was a simple fall.
A doorway bribed me into light;
I took the hint. Just to feel the blood
humping my heart! I felt as well
as water. The day was a sudden jade.
I weighed its chances. They were bright.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday