The Renunciation

Blake Morrison

Our lives were wasted but we never knew.
There was such work to be done: the watch-chains
And factories, the papers to sign
In the study. Surrounded by brass
How could we see what we amounted to –
A glint of eyes as headlights swept away?

In a cot on the lawn lies my nephew,
Whose name I can’t remember – the strands
Of family thinner each year, though we
Are here again, politely. The sun comes through
Like a faint reminder of things not done:
Forgotten dates, brothers not loved enough.

Peter, Jenny’s husband, never forgave her.
When he caught them, out by the links, it was
All quite tame – some shouts and blows, Jenny
In tears, and the lover not showing again.
But later – well Pete really cracked. Jen said he used
The affair as a way of opting out of things for good.

Here, on this stone, a relief map of lichen.
Each mossy headland like a lush green future.
Swallows gather on the wire, darkening
The air with their forked legends – journeys
We planned to take too, had the time been right
And the distance to the airport less far.

Every verse is a last verse, concluding
Sadness. You hear its tone in the chestnuts
And rookery – how much has been taken.
The garden with its nightshade nags like some
Vague guilt and the rooms look so untidy –
But there is nothing we know of to be done.

Simon has a sperm count of ten million –
Almost no chance at all, the clinic said.
‘Funny those years of worrying if the girl ...
When all the time ... and now Louise, who’d set
Her heart on three ... there’s fostering, true but when ...
I’ve lost the urge as well – know what I mean.’

I have learnt lately to admire the traits
Of those who dispossess me: their scars,
Their way of getting straight to the point,
Things mattering. Their families roam the orchards,
At home among the tennis courts and lupins.
I watch – I have resigned myself to light.

Our lives run down like lawns to a sundial.
And unborn children play in a world I imagine
As good: the sash cords run free again
And I am leaning out and calling them
To hurry now and join us quickly, will they,
Quickly – we are all ready to begin.