A Day Like Any Other

A Day Like Any Other

This week’s choice is by Gareth Owen (1936—2002) and mixes the marvellous with the mundane.

A day like any other.
That’s how it is.
Nothing much ever happens here.

Gareth Owen (1936—2002)

Poem 194. Saturday Night at the Bethlehem Arms

Very quiet really for a Saturday.
Just the old couple come to visit relations
who took the double room above the yard
and were both of them in bed by half past nine.
Left me with that other one, the stranger.
Sat like he was set till Domesday at the corner of the bar
Sipping small beer dead slow and keeping mum,
Those beady tax-collector’s eyes of his
On my reflection in the glass behind the bar
Watching me, watching me.
And when he did get around to saying something
His talk was like those lines of gossamer
That fishermen send whispering across the water
To lure and hook unwary fish.
Not my type. And anyway I’d been on the go since five.
Deadbeat I was.
Some of us have a bed to go to, I thought to myself.
I was just about to call Time
When the knock came at the door.
At first I was for turning them away;
We only have two rooms see and both of them were taken.
But something desperate in the woman’s eyes
Made me think again and I told them,
They could rough it in the barn
If they didn’t mind the cows and mules for company.
I know, I know. Soft, that’s me.
I yawned, locked up, turned out the lights,
Rinsed my hands to lose the smell of beer.
Went up to bed.
A day like any other.
That’s how it is.
Nothing much ever happens here.

This free verse poem is a really entertaining take on the Nativity told by the weary, hard-working landlord of the inn where Mary and Joseph find lodging.

Our host is wrapped up in the minutiae of his business, carefully skirting the snares in his customer’s conversation as he tidies up after a long day’s work; he is unaware of the birth of Christ in his stable, unaware that an incredible story is beginning among his animals. Gently mocking his own sympathy for the desperate couple, he finishes his nightly routine and goes to his bed: to him, nothing has changed, it’s the same as any other day.

 I like this poem because it presents the marvellous in mundane terms and reminds us that no matter what the big story is, there are always little stories around it that are no less important to their protagonists.

Comments (from the original post)

  • Roger Till: I really like Gareth Owen. Good choice Matt.