Meet me in the lobby of the Hotel Europa,
the high lobby shadowed by palms,
where men in uniform stride with stiff
purpose and the pianist gifts us bland jazz.
We’ll never spend as many nights
in the Hotel Europa as we would need
to wake just once in all its pristine rooms,
to step lightly onto every balcony.
Let’s kiss in the garden of the Hotel Europa,
let’s scandalise the dowagers, their hangers on.
We’ll be a mystery to those who meet us,
briefly, at the backgammon table
or in the cocktail hour, when the Hotel Europa
is pearlescent with afternoon light
and the time until dinner is too short for anything
but dozing and minor intrigue.
As soon as we arrive in the Hotel Europa
we long to leave, to find that little place
you once stumbled on – its courtyard walls
rippling with fig trees, its address a fiction.
And yet we cannot fault the service
in the Hotel Europa. Even though it’s just after
or just before a war and long-retired
waiters have been pressed back into the ranks
of the white-gloved. Half bent with age,
they’re a credit to the Hotel Europa,
younger by decades than most of the guests,
who don’t remember their room numbers,
the names of their children,
or even the location of the Hotel Europa
in a land so silent you can hear the blades
of grass turned by the breeze, steam
escaping from the crazed pipework
in the basement of the Hotel Europa,
where the boiler groans from years of obsolescence
and the maître d’ is stealing the better wine.
And if we’ve ever cause to quit the Hotel Europa,
let us not be consumed by recrimination
and regret. Call it a dream,
a happy accident. If you must, a lie.