Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Scottish Poetry Library; Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust; Carry a Poem.
Long before we tie the knot, Divorce moves in.
He sits on the naughty step, patting his knees.
Crowned in towel, I step out the shower
and he’s there, handing me a raffle ticket.
He plays kick-about with the neighbourhood kids,
chalks crosses on their doors and buys them Big Macs.
Socking his fist into the bowl of his hat,
he’d kicked the gate wide, that sunny day in Leeds.
My mum was incredulous, “she’s only ten,
she can’t possibly have made contact with you.”
He clocked my young face and handed me his card.
‘Call me when you fall in love, I’m here to help.’
Perhaps he smelt something in my pheromones,
a cynicism rising from my milk-teeth.
With gum, he stuck notes on Valentine’s flowers:
tiny life-letters in factual grey ink.
The future cut two keys for a new couple.
On my twenty-first, Divorce took the spare room.
He loves to breathe down the spout of the kettle,
make our morning coffee taste mature and sad.
He waits by the car, slowing tapping Tic-tacs
down his throat. We’ve thought about stabbing him,
but he’s such a talented calligrapher:
our wedding invitations look posh as pearl.
He bought us this novelty fridge-magnet set,
a naked doll with stick-on wedding dresses.
Divorce and I sometimes sit in the kitchen,
chucking odd magnetic outfits at the fridge.
He does the cooking, guarding over the soup,
dipping his ladle like a spectral butler.
He picks me daisies, makes me mix-tapes, whispers
‘call me D,’ next thing he’ll be lifting the veil.
After the honeymoon, we’ll do up the loft,
give Divorce his own studio apartment.
We must keep him sweet, my fiancée agrees,
look him in the eye, subtly hide matches,
remember we’ve an arsonist in the house.
The neighbours think we’re crazy, pampering him
like a treasured child, warming his freezing feet,
but we sing Divorce to sleep with long love songs.
I always felt you were too good for me;
You slayed my nightmare dragons lightly.
When you did not turn to gaze on me,
I told myself you were Orpheus showing self-restraint,
Yet still it hurt, for I wanted you to want me stupidly.
I would gladly have fallen into Hell
For a hungry glance off you.
But I was nothing, easily injured and unworthy,
So I created my own mythology, to be your equal.
Fairy-tales grew in dark forests on my tongue,
And you listened enchanted
As I encrusted myself with rubies and bravery.
It was easy, I am good at telling stories...
I told you I could call up storms of butterflies and violets.
I told you twelve princes were pursuing me,
and performing dangerous tasks to win my hand.
I told you I rose from death seven times and, laughing,
flicked the gold flames of my hair into the faces of my killers.
I told you I loved you enough to bear crows pecking my eyes,
And enough to stick an asp in my bra.
I slayed your love easily; a clumsy, mortal accident.
You cowered at my majesty,
The thought of those ragged bodies lapping over my rocks.
Ironic, when my magic is clearly not as potent as yours.
My stories convinced you like the words of a prophet.
You say you are not perfect like I think you are.
You say I am angel-pure and your hands would tear my wings.
You say you do not deserve oceans of white roses.
You say you do not deserve rooms full of sunbeams -
They blind you, as thorns do - I am too much brightness.
And besides, if you gave me the kiss, the kiss of true love,
It would not awaken me, and no-one would change shape.
You would be an anti-climax.
You would disappoint.
It is my own fault, I was my own Genesis.
Now I must pay a price greater than to always hold the sky up.
I must watch you retreat from me, dropping no crumb trail;
Watch you leave me without thread in this labyrinth I made.
I tell you that I lied, but you no longer believe me.
I will always be a giddy goddess to you;
A mermaid longing for legs that will only bring varicose veins,
When she should be plucking pearls out of the sea-bed.
I shout: “No! I’m only a stupid, stupid girl.
I love you for your flaws, they are what make you perfect.”
You shake your head.
You tell me that in every myth there is a grain of truth.
Illicit one-time love, your face
was narrow as mine, Italian as
De Niro. You were fortunate
to escape marriage to me, yet
sometimes, I confess, you visit
my salacious dreams. I wear black
lycra above the knee, and meet
your eyes as if you were an eager
punter on Great Windmill Street.
It’s years since I gave back your rose cut
diamond ring – which doesn’t show much wit –
so why would I think of calling you this evening
half way across the world? I have
your number, but see no point using it.
It’s far too late for an alternative life.
You would have hated being strapped for cash.
And who can tell how long we would have
burned together, before turning to ash?