Mrs & Relatively new development
by Ros Barber
[ poetry - november 07 ]
Suddenly, Mrs: just as you had sketched
a snog of boyfriend's surnames tacked on yours
like patches on the scuffed-out knees of jeans;
a signature you'd have to practice new
and Mrs on the phone: a foreign pause
before you understand the call's for you.
The wedding cards were quick to relish it,
and all the guests who wanted to be first
to call you Mrs Something-else-than-you,
to see you try it on, and say it fits.
A luggage label: Wife, belonging to;
even worn soft, at night, the binding hurts.
And letters, Mrs. Sometimes all his name
both first and last, as if you don't exist
except to be the adjunct to his essence;
except to orbit round him, bland, dismissed,
a shadow of the girl he fell in love with,
who lost a part of her each time they kissed.
It's hard to love her, Mrs. But for months
you'll wear her, chafing, with the other's name
still rubbing at your comfort like a shoe
whose leather hasn't softened. Wear the shame
that adolescent wishes have come true
and obliterated half the words for you.
Relatively new development
They made these roads deliberate dead-ends:
looped them round, and knotted them in bows,
called them cul-de-sacs, as if they're French,
called them flower names, topped off with Close.
Close as the mosses crammed into the cracks
of kerbstones; flying ants in summer plague;
ungreeted neighbours, every one detached.
Close as a city three days' walk away.
Close as the hanging straps that lurch his sleep,
the underarms of strangers, suits of sweat,
his coffee-solid state of not there yet.
Close as the single hours she has to keep.
Close as an August overdue its rain,
the metered tap that pumps the flowers alive,
the television shows that hold her sane,
close as the chips of gravel in the drive.
Close as a mobile phone against her thigh,
the vacuumed yawning of an empty day,
the double-glazing gap, its dying fly;
close as a wife whose husband works away.
Close as a train that whistles past his nose,
the end of him just inches from its cliff,
his feelings briefcase-tight inside his ribs.
Close as a man who doesn't know he's close.
No-one comes through. Turning circles skulk
by sullen drives, and lawns not worth the bother,
while in their plots of quiet, they wait it out,
each wondering what happened to the other.