Multiplied

Anthony Thwaite

He’s gone with her, and she has gone with him,
And two are left behind; and there’s four more –
The children, two of each; grandparents, still
Alive and well, till now, and taking sides;
And neighbours, six close by, and more besides
In half a dozen villages ... Until
The whole thing multiplies by seven score –
Why he went off with her, and she with him.

One, left behind, has changed the locks and keys:
The other keeps inside and draws the blinds.
The ones who went have rented somewhere near,
But no one’s seen them yet. The children play
With neighbours’ children. Those who’ve gone away
Will haggle over them, and fret in fear
Absence will blank them out. What clasps and binds
Shreds down to lawyers, judgments, mortgages.

So what began in two especial lives,
Involving many more in church and bank,
Florist, wine-merchant, dressmaker, Moss Bros,
A regiment of relatives, a ring,
Has now become this other tangled thing:
Two grew to eight, with dozens at a loss
To know whom they should blame or love or thank.

So many husbands gone, so many wives.