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Heathrow Airport Toilets

By: Michael Brett

The Poem

Heathrow Airport toilets are composers: their overture is largo:
Their instruments are the echoing footstep, the muffled whoosh,
The discrete cough.

The crescendo is forever the bumbling choirs of hand dryers
Like giant bees pinned to the walls;

The allegro has a short ballet, a last look in the mirror;
The trudge with a bag back to the main hall, all
Set to the boom of personal announcements,
And the last calls for Glasgow or Nairobi.

The pedestals too are Modern Art: porcelain Venus Fly Traps:
Waiting, waiting; endlessly being cleaned
Amid the sirocco roar of hand driers.

Their pedestals are curiously Olympic, as if needing
The touch of an Olympic flame.

Sometimes they are spiritual, comforting:
They are heirs to alpine monasteries and St Bernard dogs.
They offer solace and silence, sanctuary to the suitcase carrying river.

Here, everyone can hide for a moment, or catch their breath,
Renew acquaintance with themselves;
Get to know again those tired looking people in the mirror,
Who flow through international airports:
Through the places that are nowhere and everywhere;

Where no one knows anyone but everyone can be seen;
Who took a taxi at four o’clock this morning in a different time zone;

But, like a terrorist or criminal gang,
Every cubicle door has an oath of silence;
They never blab, they never spill the beans
Of how a history may begin here.

As the cleaner splashes the tiles with his mop and bucket,
The pedestals stand in rows, like silent and obedient troops.

In the Roman Civil War, the keepers of the public latrines
Sometimes rose to be lords of life and death.

Tomorrow he could be emperor.

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