Dancing Dust

Poems by Mollie Caird (1922-2000)

Dirge in St. Aldate's
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The uniformed attendant turns the key,
Conducts you into this unlovely hall —
What? Prison? Mortuary? Geriatric ward?
Its inmates lean and lie along the wall,
Ancient, decaying, sad: yet, perhaps, some
Forlornly cherish still a spark of hope
That he (or she) will come.
Anxious, you search for the familiar form,
Exclaim at some poor wreck or, maybe, cry:
"That one's no age and hasn't suffered harm —
How odd that no one bothers or enquires!"
You look, and look in vain.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am, that none of these is yours,"
The keeper says, locking the door again,
"If we get any news we'll let you know."
Then, as you turn to go,
Handlebars droop again as hope expires,
And hark! how sad the long faint sigh exhaled
From unpumped tyres.


Oxford police station in St. Aldate's is home to a pound for the lost and stolen bicycles recovered by the police.

Oxford Times, 6 December 1963