The Interior

The Interior
There is a bed. 
There is a bedside cabinet, 
a clock. There are no adjectives. 
Whiteness is painted on two walls, 
on two walls there is wallpaper 
with boats on waves. 
There is a window, a window 
sill. There are no curtains 
but blinds. There is a desk, 
a desk chair. There is nothing on the desk. 
There is a wardrobe, whose door 
is closed. There is nothing else. 
If we draw the blinds, open the window, 
let adjectives in, we can see  
there is not much bedness about the bed,  
sloped and low, no view out the window;  
not much you might call beddy-bye 
with sheets a bleached who cares non-colour  
as if ironed by an enormous 
angry iron: you wouldn’t dream 
of sailing the high seas in there. 
The cabinet could bore description to death  
and the clock can no longer face 
blank nights, the stale air. 

The whiteness painted on two walls is off- 
white the way a joke can be off  
or a person. The window blinds snigger 
like blades, cutting the anonymous room 
from the anomalous moon-shaped streetlamp 
floating on the black sea of night outside.  
I ate crab claws on a boat that set out 
from Donaghadee towards Fort William 
once and it was awful, the sea a grey 
soup of seasickness, sky a freezing fog. 
The dippy orange yellow-submarine-style 
cartoon boats on the wallpaper are off 

on a repeating trip over abstract 
wave lines that jag symmetrically 
rather than crest, repeating at ten 
centimetre intervals. One might guess 
that if anything was written on  
that desk it might be gibberish but we 
shall refrain from prejudicial speculation. 
A lifetime of work to own a house 
then you end up diminished by it. 
A lifetime of work to find a voice 
then you end up imprisoned by its  	
drone when you try to rise 
to the occasion. Keener readers 
will have noted there is no floor, 
no ceiling. I recall standing, feeling 
I was sinking, outside a bedroom 
window one freezing dawn, the sky a grey 
formless soup, having paced the night 
to nowhere in particular – to this 
window – I suppose thinking if this is home 
then I’m at sea, at sea. At intervals 
from then to now I have set out to find 
walls, a row of rooms, strange worlds  
within the wardrobe, whose door is closed. 
Alan Gillis

Copyright © Alan Gillis, 2018. All rights reserved.

Alan Gillis

Belfast-born Alan Gillis teaches at the University of Edinburgh, writes as a critic and has published four collections of poetry.

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About The Interior

This poem was written as part of 'The Blue Crevasse' project, which marks the centenary of W.S. Graham in 2018. The image of a blue crevasse famously appears in W.S. Graham’s poem ‘Malcolm Mooney’s Land’, and the author’s estate welcomed the idea of creating a similar metaphorical space where admirers of the poet might, in a sense, be lowered for a month’s solitary ‘residency’.