In the hospital of someone else's life,
the innocent lie waiting for her ministrations,
their crime no more than disobedience to Nature.
Children of Eve, every one,
impatient to taste the apple and so
breaking ranks with the womb before time.
We know about breaking ranks, she and I,
because we will not put on the straitjackets
so neatly laid out for us.
This is not forbidden fruit we share.
It is the windfall from the tree of longing.
I break into my mistress’ sleep because I want
to hear her voice, rolling like thick honey
down the telephone line.
Then, a homing pigeon, I rise,
wings beating furiously through the velvet night.
For hours we kiss,
letting our tongues take us to a place
beyond death and vanity.
I taste her topography,
sing the psalm of her flesh,
grow heady on the catalogue of her fragrances.
I want to unpick her locks
and set free the prisoners of desire.
In the morning, Sunday lives up to its name.
Insects chirrup in the terracotta haze
as slender shafts of light prise apart the venetians
to pluck at strands of my mistress’ hair,
playing her dreaming music like a concert pianist.
I love to study her when sleep
leaves her unguarded,
when I can brush aside the covers
to watch the porcelain world of her breast
rising and falling,
to cup it gently so she sighs but does not wake.
Awake, she will remind me that it is too small.
She never sees, as I do,
the perfection of her imperfections.
Unwilling to break the covenant of skin,
calling the hospital to say she will be late.
Coy about the grape of passion,
another fruit from Eden’s orchard showing above
the starched white collar.
I kiss her goodbye.
Pressed between her lips and the sun at my back,
the heat of contentment envelops me.
This is how it must be, in this moment,
in this embrace, in this sunlight.
Go, merciful angel, to those more helpless than I
that need your love.
POET'S NOTE: I have been extremely reticent to post this poem as my Tuesday Poem. It comes with a coda, so to speak. I don't want anyone thinking I'm some kind of terrible philanderer or that I am now or have ever been unfaithful to my present wife, (only Number Two, I'm not Liz Taylor) whom I adore.
This poem was written about the time when my first marriage broke down and my first wife had taken up with someone else. We had agreed to separate and I was moving back to New Zealand from Australia, but we had also agreed that I should finish the degree I was studying since I was only about six months from its completion.
It was a strange time (perhaps that is why it is called "estrangement") and we went from being husband and wife to kind of independent flatmates, living under the same roof but living separate lives. She was going out with her new love and I was feeling a bit lonely and overlooked. I ended up having a brief but intense relationship with a woman I met who was a bit heartbroken and lonely herself. We were kindred souls seeking the same wellspring of hope and optimism. We knew it was doomed, as I was leaving the country, but we threw caution to the wind. Sometimes you really do have to live for the moment, however brief, like the short but beautiful life a butterfly enjoys.
So, to reiterate, I was not "cheating" on my first wife and I believe in fidelity in relationships, but somehow the word "mistress" has a forbidden, exotic ring to it with its connotations of illicit pleasure and general naughtiness. Who among us has never been naughty or dreamed of being naughty?