After we broke up
and agreed not to call or write
for at least a year,
I found myself drawn
for a little comfort and cheer
not so much to the top shelf
of W.H. Smith
with its flesh-tinted offers
of doom and gloom,
as the bra and knicker counter
of Marks & Spencer,
where row upon row
of carefully labelled
in chocolate and dusky peach
seemed to encourage
a humorous approach
and faith in a providing world.
In My Wildest Jeans
If these are the hollow eyes of middle age,
the map of veins beside the nose, the beard
showing up like iron filings underneath the skin,
then these must be the over-stuffed jeans
of self-delusion, the ones with a zip
that coyly exposes itself to the world, its handle
peeping between distended denim flaps.
In my wildest dreams I was never wearing them.
I had on chaps. I tucked my Yahoo T-shirt
into my gunbelt and walked around like Shane,
demonstrating to everyone my amazing
cross-draw and return. I leapt in the air and fell,
clutching my stomach, twitching occasionally.
In my wildest dreams I was only pretending to be dead.
A Lap of Honour
The front door bangs
and I creep downstairs in my dressing gown,
unable to believe my good luck.
It is like Christmas morning long ago,
the fields all white,
the day like an unopened present.
I can do whatever I like.
I can move the furniture back against the wall.
I can dance a jig in the hall.
I can sit completely still
reading a book about Aristotle.
I can do nothing at all.
Later on, I sit down to supper with myself,
having opened a bottle of wine.
I touch my glass to the TV screen
in a toast to the BBC.
My house is your house, old friend!
Stay switched on all the time if you want to.
With a glass in my hand
I make the tour of my property –
a lap of honour to celebrate my victory.
As I cruise the house, humming to myself,
I set things in motion as I pass,
curtains and cups and kitchen implements
swing to and fro at my touch,
even the chandelier sways back and forth
in cheerful valediction to absent friends.
A birdcage hanging from the ceiling
tolls like a bell
for my new found liberation.
Remember the days when six things happened every night
and no one wore an overcoat to go out?
Turning your back on a planned evening with friends
you felt the world opening its arms. The triple miracle
of meeting, liking, being liked, was taken for granted
on the way back to her flat.
I feel ashamed tonight, checking the fires are out,
checking the alarm is on, checking the bed is tucked in,
that I am not really old, or ill, or tired,
only sensible. Whatever it is
that goes click-clacking past the end of the street
makes me draw the curtains and call it a rainy night.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.