As I grew warmer
and the bus went over the bumps,
I let my mind wander
further and further,
checking my scowl
in the window of the bus
against my chances
of bending her over that table,
the arm of that chair.
When she answered the door
in her low-cut dress
I forgot what it was
I was going to do to her.
I gave her a kiss
and asked if she was ready to go out,
checking my smile
in the mirror in the hall
against my chances of being liked.
We have taken up our positions
over a complicated board-game
of coffee, cigarettes, wine
(nothing stinted for the occasion)
while she tells me with a certain sadness
how she’s got ‘muddled up’ with her boss.
I come out of my corner laughing, likeable,
full of stories about my trip.
I refill her glass for her.
Feigning concern for her welfare
and knowing her openness on the subject,
I ask about birth control.
What method are they using?
Are they being careful?
She leans towards me across the table.
‘Remember you used to tell me
men would always treat me badly if I let them?
Well, he doesn’t. He treats me well.
You don’t have to worry about that.’
How do you think I feel
when you make me talk to you
and won’t let me stop
till the words turn into a moan?
Do you think I mind
when you put your hand over my mouth
and tell me not to move
so you can ‘hear’ it happening?
And how do you think I like it
when you tell me what to do
and your mouth opens
and you look straight through me?
Do you think I mind
when the blank expression comes
and you set off alone
down the hall of collapsing columns?
How idiotic two months later
the hair curling over my collar
the fringe falling in my eyes
as I catch a glimpse in the mirror
of the haircut she arranged
the haircut she supervised
its stupidity its ignorance its bliss.
How I envy my last haircut
that knows nothing of all this
that cannot hear her voice
laughing and apologising
for the haircut by her friend
the haircut that would soon grow out
its innocence its happiness its peace.
Pass me the alarm clock, Carolyn.
What time do you have to go to work?
I’ll set it for half-past seven,
then we’ll have time for breakfast.
I’ll get the milk.
Listen, why don’t you ring up in the morning
and say you’re going to be late?
Then we can do what we like.
We could go to the Lisboa
and have custard tarts.
We could go to the Gate.
Lift up your arms.
Let me take this off.