Murder Mystery Ballad
I misread the invitation for the murder mystery party
and turn up with some cyanide and a bottle of wine.
Hellos are exchanged like currency, but I only have Euros.
I find a lonely man in the basement, painted in a black suit
from the 1920’s: he finds himself acquainted.
I return to the party and jokingly ask for a spade,
almost giving the game away. I make a new friend:
his name is Henry, and he can play the bassoon.
I am about to chime in with an anecdote about visiting
the park and feeding stale bread to plastic animals,
and then a scream, her voice,
rotund like an atom split deathly,
and we hear the news, told through choked tears:
the butler is dead, and the plot, it thickens;
I bite the bullets and they taste like chickens.
“Could it be part of the script?” at least two people ask.
“No,” says a pale woman, “because I was meant to die.”
“You’re not meant to tell anyone,” says her husband.
Whilst straightening my ruffled collar, I suggest
it was natural causes, but nobody listens because
‘MURDER’ is written in red on the floor,
with a tube of strawberry icing in the butler’s cold hand;
the host cleans it before it stains the carpet.
Just as the invitation promised, we all play detective
now there is an excuse to judge party guests;
cigars are smoked without a puff of irony.
The police arrive in jeans and Hawaiian shirts;
I assume it is Casual Friday. They scribble notes
onto napkins, and help themselves to h’ordeuvres.
The host decides it is inappropriate to serve the canopes,
so eats them alone in the kitchen.
The detective turns up late and is neither Belgian
nor a group of five children with a dog.
He sees the fear in my eyes.
I panic and hide in a different room
and dive into party conversation
where we say words and nod
like reluctant metronomes
and if I keep talking to people
then I won’t be questioned
so I ask a lonely woman:
What do you do? And who are you? Is that your real name? Even the hair? Have you always been a vegetarian? Or ever at all? Are birthday cards just preaching to the converted? Is pre-marital hugging still acceptable in public? Did Jesus have a Godfather? I like your necklace. I really like your neck. Do you think HSBC should update their name and call themselves HSAD? I can’t swim, but I once jumped into a swimming pool which replaced water with joy and found myself temporarily in Cynthia’s world, until I realised I was watching it on 4OD. Samson needed a haircut, so I cut off his head. He didn’t see that one coming. I would never do that to you because I like your neck too much. I had a dream about a lion. Is the lion my friend? Do you think the thesaurus is the greatest love story ever written? It has more ways of describing love than any other book I know.