We were living in a flat; it was number eighty-three.
At eighty-four the Barleys lived, a fearsome man was he.
He had a wife and numerous kids. We heard then rip and cuss,
Some three feet and a quarter off, across the hall from us.
And when the Barley boys broke out, and ended up in fight,
Or when the Barley baby read the Riot Act at night,
And on their balcony their cat put up an eerie moan,
The fearful Barley family might as well have been our own.
When Barley after parting with some others of the ilk
Came panting up the narrow stairs, and drank our jug of milk,
Then broke out at his missus, and as fiercely answered she –
Where was the great advantage of our marked sobriety?
When Barley bedded early he would shake the common floor
And fill the gulf of night with an intolerable snore,
And people in the other wing at us their bluchers threw –
What good if we slept soft as snow and silent as the dew?
This Barley when unoccupied would fill my study chair,
And utilise much time, and take up space I could not spare,
To tell me of the deeds he’d done, his drinkings deep and vast,
And ladies who had loved him in his sanguinary past.
And Mrs. Barley dropped in – in the morning, as a rule –
And stayed till lunch and chattered like a ladies’ boarding-school.
Then she borrowed bread and onions, and wondered if she might
Leave her little Willie with us. She was going out till night.
Our little flat’s forsaken; we have left St. Kilda road;
We knew not where to go to, and we haven’t an abode;
But no flat in any building that we’d suffered in was worth
The comfort of a camp-out. So we’re flat upon the earth!
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