How beautiful it would be to wait for you again
in the usual place,
not looking at the door,
keeping a lookout in the long mirror,
knowing that if you are late
it will not be too late,
knowing that all I have to do
is wait a little longer
and you will be pushing through the other customers,
out of breath, apologetic.
Where have you been, for God's sake?
I was starting to worry.
How long did we say we would wait
if one of us was held up?
It's been so long and still no sign of you.
As time goes by, I search other faces in the bar,
rearranging their features
until they are monstrous versions of you,
their heads wobbling from side to side
like heads on sticks.
Your absence inches forward
until it is standing next to me.
Now it has taken a seat I was saving.
Now we are face to face in the long mirror.
Everyone who made love the night before
was walking around with flashing red lights
on top of their heads-a white-haired old gentlemen,
a red-faced schoolboy, a pregnant woman
who smiled at me from across the street
and gave a little secret shrug,
as if the flashing red light on her head
was a small price to pay for what she knew.
I phone from time to time, to see if she's
changed the music on her answerphone.
'Tell me in two words', goes the recording,
'what you were going to tell in a thousand'.
I peer into that thought, like peering out
to sea at night, hearing the sound of waves
breaking on rocks, knowing she is there,
listening, waiting for me to speak.
Once in a while she'll pick up the phone
and her voice sings to me out of the past.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up
as I catch her smell for a second
You paused for a moment and I heard you smoking
on the other end of the line.
I pictured your expression,
one eye screwed shut against the smoke
as you waited for my reaction.
I was waiting for it myself, a list of my own news
gone suddenly cold in my hand.
Supposing my wife found out, what would happen then?
Would I have to leave her and marry you now?
Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad,
starting again with someone new, finding a new place,
pretending the best was yet to come.
It might even be fun,
playing the family man, walking around in the park
full of righteous indignation.
But no, I couldn't go through all that again,
not without my own wife being there,
not without her getting cross about everything.
Perhaps she wouldn't mind about the baby,
then we could buy a house in the country
and all move in together.
That sounded like a better idea.
Now that I'd been caught at last, a wave of relief
swept over me. I was just considering
a shed in the garden with a radio and a day bed,
when I remembered I hadn't seen you for over a year.
"Congratulations," I said. "When's it due?"
The smell of ammonia in the entrance hall.
The racing bike. The junk mail.
The timer switch whose single naked bulb
allowed us as far as the first floor.
The backs of your legs
as you went ahead of me up the stairs.
The landing where we paused for breath
and impatient key searching.
The locks which would never open quickly enough
to let us in.
The green of the paintwork we slid down
as if we had nowhere else to go.
Whether it was putting in an extra beat,
or leaving one out, I couldn't tell.
My heart seemed to have forgotten
everything it ever knew
about timing and co-ordination
in its efforts to get through to someone
on the other side of a wall.
As I lay in bed, I could hear it
hammering away inside my pillow,
being answered now and then
by a distant guitar-note of bedsprings,
pausing for a moment, as if listening,
Then hurrying on as before.
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?
During An Absence
Now that she has left the room for a moment
to powder her nose,
we watch and wait, watch and wait,
for her to bring back the purpose into our lives.