The Green Man was where we met.
You said, “I feel like getting drunk”.
The Green Man was where we split.
You said my kisses made you want to puke.
Alpha and omega, through a glass. Can that have been
Real life, that interloper who passed you by
On your way to the pub? (To flirting,
And to flattery
And, when those failed, a nip of gin –
A triple nip, in fact, almost a maul).
Clipping the shoulder of what might have been:
Can it be you, that girl zigzagging the
Covent Garden pavements, like a battleship wary of
U-boats? Can it be the Doctor’s daughter,
(Ex-private school, now vegetarian)
Snatching delusion from the barren air
That seems, all of a sudden, to glow in gracious
Affirmation: to throb with wordless choirs who hum along
To the singing of cider in her ears?
Her territory marked, she’s home to bed.
Drapes of indigo flutter; and behind, there smoulders
Damsel_D: marking, in silent sightless introspection,
The great hours of a drab tenebrous gloom.
No queen bee, this, but rather
A wounded cat, who knows best how to claw.
A predator, blind in self-regard, and
Proud to maim her man, with an engaging line
In death by a hundred thousand tiny cuts;
Bleeding us down until we fell,
Until we had no remnant of our self –
Excepting her approval, proffered on a whim.
She’s vague about vocations, but one learns she’s been
Some sort of model. A demi-vierge life, paraded front of lens:
Tits out, feigning supreme intimacy for the lonely:
Masquerading, before a regiment of jerking fists,
Counterfeits of love.
A career, I fear, bereft of dignity:
An empty bladder, casting shadow pictures
For lives, like hers, that knew no more than shadows;
A mannequin in offal, strutting the slab she thought
Was her Proscenium arch.
Sheba and Salome, with a snarl,
Knowing that every punter who’d dreamed and sought
To make her cheap, she had, instead, possessed.
Oh, Damsel_D! Was I so wrong to smudge your mask
With the soft touch of what might still be pure?
You were everybody’s object: yet, haughty in supreme
Disdain, you belonged to no one.
Why could you never tell me what was true?
Why could you not grasp that real love – the genuine
Article, and that alone – might be the only thing that
Cheated death? Not a nag’s facelift,
(Tarting up pre-stewed meat for the Pensioner Porn brigade):
But living love – surrendered in tenderness, however fumbling,
Coy, and in the end, abashed?
There is, I think, an image you’ll prefer.
Two nervous figures on the move:
Their leader, setting her course against the
Faux marble of a shopping mall, clearing a swathe with
Her yellow eye. And then a little man – that’s me – scuttling
Behind: the Queen of Tonga’s lunch,
Uttering entreating squeaks
Like the last shriek of a boiling lobster:
Frantic to please at any cost; helpless to placate
That flounce she’s made her own, hard as a whip:
Oh, to see that cowering man, that beaten beast of a man,
Pleading, so as to mitigate the hot wire of public
Shame: weeping, whilst the Croydon Cleopatra
Sneers and savours her inebriate triumph, tottering
To stay afloat on those majestic masts of heels.
It was a friend who wafted in my direction
This new advertisement
Of yours, on the Internet dating agency. So
Damsel_D, is what you call yourself. There they are:
Those old photos I took of you, now looming up
With a simper. And here’s your blurb, as well.
You’re only forty-seven, it seems: an occasional,
Social drinker. I’m charmed. I am beguiled.
And I am educated. You write short stories
(Like Chekhov, Woolf or Mansfield!) – making me
Wonder what my sometime prodigy will do
For our festive season, as I lick my wounds?
She’ll flit amongst the elite of humankind
That make up Sergeant Pepper’s glowing roster.
She’ll drink, with her eyes, the rare panoply
That lies on show therein. Talent,
Pulchritude and riches are hers for the picking,
Should she stay upright.
Her solitude is of a different kind from mine
(And so is theirs) but as disconsolate. It really doesn’t matter.
Let the lonely comfort the lonely. Let her and her
Evening’s suitor bob and scratch and bow, straining
Confidences at one another, across the public puddles
Of a bar. Let spunk squirt, copious as champagne, for
Their hallowed night. Let her leave those mates as she
Left me: smarting in degradation, as if I’d been
Wrung through a back street escort agency,
(All peeling paint, like panstick on her face)
- Afraid to share the sunshine,
With a cold burn where hope should have been.
For rape, my Love, comes in several forms
And you were master of the best,
Knowing how best to violate your man,
As a butcher hacks a pig: chopping off the joints
Of his self-worth, his dignity, his hope
Till there was nothing left. (What’s it to be today?
His looks? His social failures? His professional
Ineptitude? His status as a sexual cripple?)
You: with your rage, your ruthless vanity, your
Monster’s capacity to nurture unrequited hate.
You know what was the worst?
You made me miserable at other people’s
Joy, jealous at a stranger’s smile, stolen on the street
From the man it was meant for.
You made me fearful of each morning,
Ashamed to be part of it.
You bled the colour from my sky.
“The opposite of love,” so it’s said, “is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.” Well: whatever it is, this is not a poem about indifference.