To his lost lover by 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 some 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 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.

(to Contents)



Anonymous said...

It's my favourite,
always remember when it hurts.


Anonymous said...

I think there might be a small typo in this poem. In the section:

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

the another,

Should it be "theN another"?

deemikay said...

Yes it should be!

Thanks for pointing it out. :)

TussahSilk said...

I heard this in radio 4 just before midnight as I was driving home. It is the most evocative poem I've heard in ages. I had to look it up when I got home. It is heart rending.

margsmini said...

I heard this on poetry Please last night. It rips at your heart strings which is what good love poetry should do, yet there is comfort in knowing that someone else has had similar experiences. Wish I had written this!

Anonymous said...

Poetry Pleased too.
I thought I was over him.

Unknown said...

Like others, I heard this on Radio 4 while driving home last night. I repeated the name of the poet and poem out loud over and over so I wouldn't forget to look it up. It's very much my life this year. Just when you forget what power poetry can have...

Thank you for putting it up here. It's beautiful and brilliant and it knocked me sideways.

deemikay said...

Thanks for reading everyone. And I'm glad I could be of some use. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this up, I too heard it on Radio 4 (pod cast, as I live overseas). I just had to look it up - so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

isnt it amazing how many of us listened to poetry please and were moved enough by these words to memorize the title and author. Especially poignant that it was heard at midnight by those of us up late witha broken heart . . .

Dom Reid said...

How gorgeous.
There are few bits of art, poetry, music that move as profoundly as this poem.
A treasure, I feel like a part of me feels open to the sky for the first time in a while!

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