and several cars full of conventional families
with an average number of children have been thrown
into a river full of alligators,
the old house is still there in its "extensive grounds"
its doorways linking the clauses of rooms and corridors
into a majestic sentence that will not reveal its object
the windows open onto the white of the margin
rainclouds are a shop girl's dusty thumb-prints
the branching stairs escape syntax —
are the extreme point of muscular tension translated into stone
you collapse sprawling across the marble prefix as
the first door opens with a hollow sound out of a cheap horror movie
shown late on friday when we are a little stoned or drunk
and very easily frightened
their colours! Garbo's hat with the feather in it the heaps
of early sixties singles, the Afghan gloves, the burnished globes,
the toy trains, the mouldy jellies and rose-coloured maps of empire!
It is all perfect: the mirrors are hardly tarnished at all
and still flicker with the faces of unhappy children.
We have stepped into the frontispiece of a new book:
it is called "The History of Pleasure."
— John Ash, The Branching Stairs, 25