The Lift by Alan Franks
Winner of the Wigtown Poetry Prize 2006. Judge, Don Paterson
And so once again I’m in the ancient lift That still succeeds in rising by force of habit Here up the shaft in the heart of the mansion block. Easy to think it had died in the intervening time By lodging lethally in its throat of masonry, Or else simply expired with the futility of failed missions And all the later ascents into unachieved memories. Because of the carpeting, always so fat with underuse, And the solid, unhurried architecture, The world beyond remains unaware of just How loud the trellis splashes back And falls into itself like a pile of metal mattresses, Also just how great the gap can be Between the button being pressed And the clunk with which the cage begins its upward shunt. In this gap, before the flux, on days like this, With such a distance still to rise to you And the deferred eternity of your kisses, The universe breathes in and out a dozen times, Expanding its boundaries, then vanishing in its core. The current groans like a shocked heart And down in the base of the well are gathering The ghost-worms of Edwardian electricity. Up it goes, slow mechanical mercury rising in its capillary. A muffled call comes from a town church bell And a sharper little chime from the first floor flat. On the second a phone is ringing untended In the empty import-export premises. A dog is yapping through the ceiling, above which The French tutor, Madame Gourcuff, is shouting at her lover, Above which the widowed diplomat dictates his memoirs, Above which above which above which Until the storeys end and I am once again Aware of the thinning air, the diminishing roofs, The broadening view, the beginnings of fields, The curvature of the horizon, the banging of my heart At the bars of its free hanging cage.