Finest: Paul Waring – “On Bedsits”

Paul Waring Finest

On Bedits

Three flights up
threadbare arthritic stairs
in damp stale air
a vase-less jumble
of nicotined furniture
sepia-tinted peeling walls
and clogged lungs of carpet.

Ill-fitting dentures
of sash windows rattle
as shivering lips
of curtain beg warmth
from a one-bar electric fire
that eats fifty pence pieces.

Cracked elbows of pvc sofa
sprout corn-coloured foam
tangerine acrylic of seats
singed and stained by careless
ciggies and TV dinners.

On a stripped bed a sagging
mattress reads like a DNA history
of real and imagined sex.

‘Tomorrow’s World’ on a grainy
black and white TV peddles
dreams of futures
in a language
we’ve yet to learn.

First Published by Amaryllis Poetry, 2017


“‘On Bedsits’ is one of my early poems. I had only recently started to write poetry again after a gap of 20 years and I remember clearly the buzz of excitement when the idea came to mind to write a warts and all account of my bedsitland experiences 40 years earlier.

“In 1977, aged nineteen, I left home and rented a bedsit in Waterloo, near to Liverpool. I spent several freezing cold winters in a high-ceilinged room with only a teeny-weeny fire that as good as ate electricity, dreading not having a coin for the meter (I was permanently skint). Life was never short of surprises, like coming home late one stormy night and getting into a completely sodden bed after the roof leaked. The stony-faced landlord made Rigsby from Rising Damp seem like a scattercash.

“Despite this, the freedom to do (almost) anything I pleased made bedsit life great fun. And I’d like to think a sense of fun lurks somewhere in this poem. In the good old days prior to lockdown when I read ‘On Bedsits’ at poetry events, people would often nod and laugh (especially at the mattress description) and later say it brought to mind their bedsit experiences. For me, it was something akin to a right of passage.”


Paul Waring’s poetry is published in Prole, Atrium, Strix, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Lake, London Grip and elsewhere. A 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee, he was awarded second place in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. Paul’s recent pamphlet, Quotidian, is published by Yaffle.

Twitter: @drpaulwaring

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