Poetry: Metamorphosis | clivejames.com
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This new Daks suit, greeny-brown,
Oyster-coloured buttons, single vent, tapered
Trousers, no waistcoat, hairy tweed – my own:
A suit to show responsibility, to show
Return to life – easily got for two pounds down
Paid off in six months – the first stage in the change.
I am only the image I can force upon the town.

The town will have me: I stalk in glass,
A thin reflection in the windows, best
In jewellers’ velvet backgrounds – I don’t pass,
I stop, elect to look at wedding rings –
My figure filled with clothes, my putty mask,
A face fragrant with arrogance, stuffed
With recognition – I am myself at last.

I wait in the pub with my Worthington.
Then you come in – how many days did love have,
How can they be catalogued again?
We talk of how we miss each other – I tell
Some truth – you, cruel stories built of men:
‘It wasn’t good at first but he’s improving.’
More talk about his car, his drinks, his friends.

I look at the wild mirror at the bar –
A beautiful girl smiles beside me – she’s real
And her regret is real. If only I had a car,
If only – my stately self cringes, renders down;
As in a werewolf film I’m horrible, far
Below the collar – my fingers crack, my tyrant suit
Chokes me as it hugs me in its fire.

(from Once Bitten, Twice Bitten, 1961)