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    Requiem for a marriage

    In this poem, Anna Stephen explores the complex emotions of a marriage falling apart.

    CW: Domestic violence

    Look at you

    Writing poems about me

    Because that is your job.

    You published under a different name, 

    But I recognised the slander

    I knew it was about me.

    You pulled pies from the oven (burned)

    I saw your arm

    Which had bruises on it.

    I had done that, on a morning, maybe ten:

    In the same clothes as yesterday, on my way back in 

    Through the front door.

    Still scented with perfume (not yours) that I knew

    Lingered on my lips (I could taste it).

    You had kissed me hello, moving back my hair

    And I saw something redden in your eyes,

    And you smiled but you seemed to struggle for breath

    As well as words,

    And you walked away quickly

    With your head bowed.

    (You might have mumbled something about

    Tending to the baby.)

    I didn’t sleep in the bed that night

    Because I was crying myself to sleep (on the sofa).

    I’m sure she was too, upstairs in the bed 

    We shared.


    Who was so good with the children

    Saw them, without seeing them.

    Your head was hollow, your vision dark.

    In their wails and screams you heard your own.

    You grew sick and I could not play nurse for you.

    I stood outside the door, listening for your breathing, but 

    I did not go in.

    When you were up again (I was still well)

    Something had changed: you had your smiles back.

    But your relation to them

    Was not the same. You kissed me out of choice and it felt wrong.

    I didn’t return again that night. It was routine now. 

    She knew 

    What I was doing.

    She started doing it too. Some nights I am sure

    The baby was left alone in the house.

    The day before you went,

    We had a conversation.

    It was about the situation. It involved many things;

    I felt many things.

    I wanted to kiss you, even though I didn’t love you.

    I wanted you, all the more because I knew

    Someone else was getting you.

    What does that mean now?

    You knew it as well.

    We went to our separate beds. I knew you wanted to join me

    Somewhere inside you. You wanted me,

    Somewhere inside you.

    The next day you were gone. You must have left very early,

    Because I rose with the sun, and saw fresh frost on grass and rooftops –

    The jewellery of the mist. There were no tracks, there was nothing.

    You had taken the baby.

    I had failed our marriage.

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