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My Proper Life

Economy for twelve hours overnight
Means total loss of feeling in the legs.
Tray tables back, seats up, good children all,
We fill in customs declaration forms,
My biro prodding anaesthetic knees.
I reach Profession. Hmm. What am I, now
I don’t go to the office any more?
I hesitate and then put Writer. There.
I hope I’m not required to furnish proof.
‘A list of publications, sir, perhaps?
A volume in your bag? No? I’m afraid…’

I get in with no trouble, and I’ve made
A kind of declaration to myself.
‘I’ve just retired, and nothing’s stopping me
From doing what I always said I would:
Write poetry. And face the awful fact
That I might fail, might be embarrassing,
Might make my friends seek kindly things to say
About the latest package in the post
I “hoped they might enjoy”. So take the risk,
Embarrass if you have to, what the hell.’

The legs are back in gear. The ears have popped
And all is ultra-clear and strange to sense:
The nosing rental car, bright light, warm wind,
November in the southern hemisphere.
Good child turned truant in my middle age,
I see that I’ve been looking out for signs,
For slip-roads to my proper life, for years.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author