Reception

The music bleats, initially,
lulling the early morning callers
into a real tit's trance. They've toshed
this sanctum up since last I was
lounging here, rustling
Woman's Weekly, or inspecting
the racier pages of Horse And Hound.

It infiltrates the brain,
and sponges, so they'd have it,
the matter of anxiety from
our orderly faces. I cannot
spot the speakers, but who would
not bask in the warm air
breezing in from the Sixties?
Even medical receptionists are baby
boomers these days. Or their mothers.

Staring at the headlice leaflets,
noting that a nit contained a nymph,
which sounds quite nice, I take
to some quiet fingering of follicles.
Is anybody listening? Seamlessly
the hits are taking most peculiar turns.

For instance, I Just Don't Know
What To Do With Myself
gives way
to the wailing deceleration of
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',
in which the fink falsetto is always
drowned by the dullard's long lament:
There's no tenderness like before
in your fingerti-i-ips
. It sounds

like an undertaker's feeble
attempt at consolation. The patients,
most of them as fit as fleas -
see the other leaflet - seem blithely
oblivious to the implications.
Wait a tic. What about some chirp,
or even schmaltz, perhaps the gentle
dreft of Chris Montez, or even (although
God forbid) I Like It, and the happy
jangle of Gerry and the...no, on second thoughts. And anyway,
we're already into the doleful
chorus of The Sun Ain't Gonna
Shine Any More
, the jolly mogadon
of the melody chivvied by the flat
smack of the drums. A man with a wife
and two sticks to support is led
off down the spotlit shag.
A snuffle of kids traipses after
its maddened mother. They interrupt
the broadcast for instructions:
Go Straight In To Doctor. We oblige.

Hoiking my bag on my shoulder,
I hike down the hall. Behind me,
in a surreptitious whisper, Roy
Orbison is softening up the punters.
It's Over, he sings. The skin
on the man who nabs my seat
is as sallow as tallow.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday