A Brothel in Ostia – R I Redfern

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1967 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: David Holbrook, Miss McCarthy, Mrs Ford

“We had a devilish long journey, getting here.
Last grain ship from Alexandria, split on Malta,
Every stick lost, but every man saved
For a winter on that miserable bare island!
And here on the mainland, and at home
Everything awaiting us. My old woman there, in Rome,
Good for a go but not exciting.
Here Dru and Euphy. Good lasses,
Dru still her old self, dark-eyed, supple, squirmy,
But poor old Euphy, – got her dose and gone.”

“What? — You gone all the winter?
Picked up a queer chap you say at Myra,
Touched, but could see things — do them
By your account of that snake. Any other yarns?
But don’t you believe your old woman’s that dull !
Ask some of the neighbours !”

“Hey, Dru ! Good old Dru — brown and soft as ever.
Come — this way — up the steps.”

The sailor’s welcome, dock labourer’s solace,
Market man’s comfort. The charioteers will sneak in
When their teamster’s not looking.
And the gentry too,
An occasional tribune, knight even,
Passing this way, and using, of course, a different stair.

Fifteen hundred years under sand,
And now exposed, complete to the second storey.
Wine jars below, pegged in the sand,
Pavements, frescoes, all serving the grand design.
And the pub next door. A low place,
But even there the counter- tops of marble.

                 THIS WAY TO ROME

The sea-way of all the world
And its salvation.

Copyright © R I Redfern 1967

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