‘We die together though we live apart’
You say, not looking up at me,
Not looking up.
                       ‘I mean to say,
Even were we actually to die in unison,
Evaporating in each other’s arms,
We’d still have ended up – well, wouldn’t we? –
Dying for a taste, our first and last,
Of unaloneness:
               we’d have dreamed,
Dreamed up a day utterly unclouded
By the dread that not quite yet but soon,
Although, please God, not very soon,
We will indeed be whispering
Wretchedly, in unison, your breath on mine:
I might as well be dead,
Or we might. Do you follow? Are you
With me? Do you see?’


That dream again: You stop me at the door
And take my arm, but grievingly.
Behind you, in the parlour, I can see
The bow of a deep sofa, blanketed in grey,
And next to it, as if at harbourside,
A darker grey, rough-sculpted group of three.
Three profiles sombrely inclined,
Long overcoats unbuttoned, hats in hand:
Night-mariners, with eyes of stone,
And yet the eyes seem stricken.
Is it that they too can hardly bear
What’s happened? What has happened? Who?

At Evening

Arriving early, I catch sight of you
Across the lawn. You’re hovering:
A silver teaspoon in one hand
(The garden table almost set)
And in the other, a blue vase.
For the few seconds I stand watching you
It seems half-certain you’ll choose wrong
– Well, not exactly wrong, but dottily,
Off-key. You know,
That dreaminess in you we used to smile about
(My pet, my little lavender, my sprite),
It’s getting worse.
I’d talk to you about it if I could.

The Garden

This garden’s leaning in on us, green-shadowed,
Shadowed green, as if to say: Be still, don’t agitate
For what’s been overgrown –
Some cobbled little serpent of a path,
Perhaps, an arbour, a dry pond
That you’d have plans for if this place belonged to you.
The vegetation’s rank, I’ll grant you that,
The weeds well out of order, shoulder-high
And too complacently deranged. The trees
Ought not to scrape your face, your hands, your hair
Nor so haphazardly swarm upwards to impede
The sunlit air you say you need to breathe
In summertime. It shouldn’t be so dark
So early.
            All the same, if I were you,
I’d let it be. Lay down your scythe. Don’t fidget
For old clearances, or new. For one more day
Let’s listen to our shadows and be glad
That this much light has managed to get through.

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Vol. 12 No. 19 · 11 October 1990

So, Fiona Pitt-Kethley ‘can employ but at the same time heighten … such language as men and women really use’, and that saves her from the charge of insulting women and men in her crude artless poetry? I don’t think William Guy (Letters, 26 July) is answering the question. The line ‘while lover boy is fiddling with my tits’ offends because it is unhealthy for sexual partners to spectate. Never mind the question of love, this is a recognised pathological problem. One partner will spectate, and not fully participate, in order to retain power, humiliating the responsive or giving partner. That way, you can both cash in and disparage. These are some of the worries dealt with in Ian Hamilton’s excellent ‘Soliloquy’ (LRB, 26 July). To write brutally is to start to think brutally.

Lawrence Dale
Victoria University of Wellington,

send letters to

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London Review of Books
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London, WC1A 2HN

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