Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Poem

To His Lost Lover
    -Simon Armitage

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance ... for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery -

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of heavy weather -

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit,

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

then another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by the heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said 'Don't ask me to say how it is

I like you.
I just might do.'

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them -
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.


tmkahhi said...


heartbreaking poem, this. And was the theme of horrid nights in other times and places.

1. This too shall pass
2. We are number 1, everyone else is two or below

savita said...

beautiful, and heart-rending.

Ludwig said...

[tmkahhi] Re:

1) WTF are you talking about?
2) Muhahahahahahahahahahaha... (#6 is still elusive, also #5)

[savita] Innit? Thought so ourselves. There's a rather nice book by Simon Armitage, that is worth the effort to lay hands on it. Bit hard to find these days. Unless you have friends in high places in England...

Anonymous said...

I'm a random person. I was searching for this poem by Armitage, but only remembered the buried cutlery line. Thank you google, and thanks for posting this poem. Good stuff.

Ludwig said...

[laurel] Glad to be of service. You can find a couple of other Armitage poems (and other poetry) over at Minstrels, if you're interested.

8&20 said...

Ludwig, that was awesome. I need to visit your blog more often!

Ludwig said...

[8&20] Thanks for stopping by, glad you liked, and do come back. Armitage, verrrry good. We have posted poetry elsewhere before, here and here, for instance.

S. said...

Oh... so nice. Thank you for posting. I've never read anything by him.

Ludwig said...

[S.] He can be very good. A completely unexpected discovery via the fellow who has posted above as 'tmkahhi'. There's a book of his poetry called 'Book of Matches'. Quite something. Very hard to find in India, though. I think I got mine in a poetry books shop in Boston.

If you haven't read, and are into that sort of thing, Stephen Dobyns' 'Pallbearers Envy the One Who Rides' is also very engaging in a similar-ish way.

S. said...

Well, these days, there is Flipkart :-) I shall check this out - it looks like it's right up my alley.

I looked up Steve Dobyns and found this: So, so, so nice! Thank you for the recco. In consideration, (because it's so central to the nature of a lawyer), there is this: I hope you haven't read it already :-)

Ludwig said...

[S.] Flipkart? Really? This kind of stuff. I will be very surprised! What a koinkidink! You found the very same Stephen Dobyns that you may hear here (what punning, hear hear!) crooned via the dulcet tones of the Ludwig himself! Although for some strange reason it won't play now. On the other hand, it is just as well. Ludwig's crooning is the sort of thing that makes strong men wince and hide their valuables. No, hadn't read the "On The Origins Of Things". What a lovely "consideration", I say. Didn't know lawyers dealt in poems! I wonder what it sounds like. Quite the thing, thank ye kindly!