This Other Life


Seeing as she submerges
disturbances of the foamy water,
unnoticed here, I look at her

skin suffused with warmth, the margins
of her self and I acknowledge
urges he pressed home, my fears.

Lathering reaches of her front
to punish in herself another's want
and be clean, she is fierce:

roughly imagined by him;
taken as though insubstantial;
dispossessed, possessed - my victim.

Unannounced, I lightly touch
her streaming upper arm to speak.
Only it startles her so much

an overfaint quiet is thickening.
My mistake, never reckoning
how still you are afraid of me

or my imagination. Being
not specially alone, alive I'm
far from the person who endured him.

My love, this is the dirty thing.

Written with a memory of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's 'Ballade des Ausseren Lebens' as a formal model, early 1980 in Roxana Waterson's house, Emery Street, Cambridge, employing some fragments from draft poems of summer 1978.

Published in :
  • Twofold no. 2, 1980
  • Siting Fires no. 1, 1982
Included in :

Critical Response: Eric Griffiths on 'Cleaning'