The release of putting off
who and where we’ve come from,
then meeting in this room
with no clothes on –
to believe in nothing,
to be nothing.

Before you could reach out
to touch my hand
I went to the end of that first
empty motorway
in a transit van
packed with gauze sacks
of onions.
I waited in groundmist
by a hedge
that was webbed with little frost nets;
pointlessly early
and on edge,
it was like rubbing one finger
along the dulled blade
of a penknife,
then snapping it shut.
I need only go back,
though all of my life
was pitched in the risk
of seeing and touching you.

A church and a creamery,
the trope of villages
on the slow road to Enniskillen
where they made a stramash
of the Imperial Hotel
two days before
our last prime minister
was whipped at smokefall
to Brize Norton.

When I found the guest-house
opposite Byrne’s Hardware
the girl, Bridie, said ‘Nah,
she’s not back yet –
d’you want wait on her?’
But I went off
down the main street
like the place was watching
this gaberdine stranger
who’d never seen it before.

There was a newish wood
above a small, still lough
so I climbed into its
margin of larch and chestnut,
one of those buck eejits
that feels misunderstood –
the pious, dogged friend
who’s brought just comfort,
no more than that.

I smoked a cigarette
while an olive armoured car
nosed down the hill –
no more than I could, it’d never fit
the manor house’s porte cochère
and white oriel,
for I felt dwammy sick
at the fact of meeting you again
so near and far from home
and never saying
let’s run from every one of them.
There was a half-hour
when I could still
slip back to the Velma
and leave a note with her –
I called but you weren’t in.
See you.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences