No 17 - Winter 2001-2
Choosing to Disappear
It’s just on odd mornings, at first.
His house is glossed by a different light.
Lines and edges sharpen. Chairs, tables,
drawers stand free of familiarity,
become mere objects on display.
His daughter’s laughter, pearls tinkling,
is a memory he’s trying to place.
His son has a face like the face
in the mirror whose contours he touches
as if testing a blade. And this woman,
his wife, her intimate smile speeds
his breathing, creeps from his skin like dew.
He shrugs it off with a routine
he wears like a suit, but it drips
into his consciousness, this feeling,
like a leaking pipe into a basin.
More and more he begins to linger
at chance meetings with strangers,
devours tiny details of other lives,
imagines being immersed in them
like a second skin, as if this would stop
his being outside himself, disbelieving
the life he lives, not remembering
how he arrived here. So he starts
a game, like a secret passion
for chocolate, something to sweeten
the days, make them easier to swallow:
Money sliced off the joint account,
squirreled in a drawer beneath socks
and underwear, beside bus timetables
to places he’s never been, or where
he spent holidays that fit like a glove.
From time to time his family notice
him looking at them without seeing,
but brush it away like mud trailed in a kitchen.
They’re too caught up by their rush of days.
He does what he should, doesn’t interfere,
so they carry his sometimes-silences
like a river grasping a fallen branch.
The kids slip into sleep warmed
by his stories of Narnia, oblivious
to his popping out to the late-night shop
and when he shoves the wad of notes
into his pocket, it means nothing
just the game gone one stage further.
he checks that milk is all they need,
not sure why his token kiss lingers
on his wife’s cheek, and he walks out.
She doesn’t look at the time at first,
trying to piece together
a jigsaw-puzzle TV drama
and when all pieces are fixed in place
she curses the friends he must have met
and sips black coffee, impatience
measured by the hands of the clock.
Later, or the next day, she will look
for a trail on the rain-washed street:
check with the shopkeeper, question
staff at the local bar, phone around
unlikely acquaintances, consider the police
and that’s it. There isn’t an ending.
Just a litre of milk left behind
on a 305 bus, found
by a puzzled driver, about to go home.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The