Marriage XV
by David Harsent

copyright © David Harsent, 2007

Now rise from the bath, your hair caught up with a peg.
The water peels back from your breasts like the film from
        a cooking egg.
You cleanly cleave your arse as you lift one leg

to the edge of the tub and start to work the towel
from ankle to thigh, then into the damson bevel
of your crotch, after which you sit, heel to knee,

on a raffia chair, your quim guerning to a scowl
as you slip your foot into the foot
of your stocking. Next, it’s your face coming free

of the summer dress, as you greet
yourself in the mirror. Here’s how it goes after that:
        foundation, powder, eye-
shadow, blusher, mascara,

lipstick pressed to a tissue … that perfectly mute
syllable of love (love, or it could be hate)
that I pick up and pocket to re-read later.

The same summer dress you loosened and dropped with a
        clatter
of tiny buttons on tile as I backed you up to the table,
our first night under this roof, and you The Biddable

Spouse, slipping your foot out of the foot
of your stocking … The same table
you cover with a red checkered cloth, setting the bread,
        the butter,

the plum preserve, and the best we have of china.
Ur-wife. Wife of wives.
I’m close enough for ambush as you pass with your box
        of knives.