Poetry: Orpheus | clivejames.com
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What is life to me without thee? 
                                 Much the same,
except that I can’t hear the great aria
sung by Kathleen Ferrier
and not be filled with longing and with shame,
so uncannily her portrait on the CD cover
resembles you; so uncannily her 1950s perm
brings you back to me, that first day of term,
waving me on to school. I missed you like a lover
and would have clawed through concrete and earth
to be at home with you, who had to let me go,
who gave me such a sense of my own worth
that I sing with her, as if Orpheus was my name...


What is left if thou art dead? 
                              My attic flat,
the cat you took such pleasure in, who wonders why
I sit so late, and drink, and do not go to bed
to sleep an hour or so then wake
and soak the clammy pillow for your sake,
who comforts me with purring in her sleep,
the gentle sleep she offers like a gift;
who does not as I do turn over in her head
the knowledge that you died between the night and morning shift,
that as you felt yourself slip
you heaved up the black bitter years that would dry
on your cold dead lips; she does not know that.


Thy dear lord am I so faithful?
                                No more or less
than when I bundled you into a wheelchair
in a stained pink hospital quilt
and the dazed smiles of women stranded in the regimen
of sleep and pills, your new friends, were rooting for us
as we struggled to that suburban high street where
you sat for your last wash and perm;
and we came back to their wondering chorus
of  ‘Ooh, lovely, dear’, and you were young again,
touching your new hair, and I was without guilt
and loved you as on that first day of term,
as if I had won you back by this huge success.