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‘Il connut la mélancolie des paquebots.’

A husband sat at dinner with his wife
And watched the passage of the level sea.
The girl who served them served his fantasy:
Tight skirt, white shirt, the à la schoolgirl tie.
She knew she could disarm him with her smile,
And did, and still did later as he queued
To buy his wife her half-expected gift:
The perfume she assured him that she loved.

Outside the shop, he stood and tried to peel
The price off cleanly with his fingernail.
A woman of his age was watching him —
The incomplete, well-meaning English male.
He caught her knowing eye. Its sympathy
Provoked his laughter and a train of thought:

We mostly don’t get what we want. But then
Fidelity is best. But time is short
And lust at sixty is lust none the less
For being futile, and ridiculous.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author