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This poem is taken from PN Review 141, Volume 28 Number 1, September - October 2001.

Two Poems Simon Armitage


Bed. Sheets without sleep, and the first birds.
Dawn, at the pace of a yacht.

The first bus, empty, carries its cargo of light
from the depot, like a block of ice.

Dawn, when the mind looks out of its nest,
dawn with gold in its teeth.

In the street, a milk-float moves
by throw of a dice,

the mast to the east raises itself
to its full height. Elsewhere,

someone's husband touches someone's wife.
One day older, the planet weeps.

This is the room
where I found you one night,

bent double, poring over
the Universal Home Doctor,

that bible of death, atlas of ill-health:
hand-drawn, colour-coded diagrams of pain,

chromosomal abnormalities explained,
progesterone secretion,

cervical incompetence...
Susan, for God's sake.

I had to edge towards it,
close the cover with my bare foot.

Dawn, when the mind looks out of its nest.
Dawn with gold in its teeth.

From the window I watch
Anubis, upright in black gloves

making a sweep of the earth
under the unnamed tree,

pushing through shrubs,
checking the bin for bones or meat

then leaving with a backward glance, in his own time,
crossing the lawn and closing the gate.

The Strid

After tying the knot,
whatever possessed us to make for the Strid -

that crossing point
on the River Wharfe

which famously did
for the boy and his dog;

that tourist trap
where a catchment area comes to a head

in a bottleneck stream
above Bolton Abbey;

you in your dress of double cream,
me done up like a tailor's dummy.

Surely it's more of a lover's leap:
two back-to-back rocks

hydraulically split
by the incompressible sap of the spine;

let it be known
that between two bodies made one

there's more going on
than they'd have us believe.

Whatever possessed us, though?
Was it the pink champagne talking?

Or all for the sake of carrying on,
canoodling out of doors,

the fuck of the century under the stars?
Or the leather-soled shoes

with the man-made uppers,
bought on the never-never,

moulded and stitched
for the purpose of taking us

up and across, over the threshold
of water-cut rock and localised moss

in one, giant stride,
bridegroom and bride.

A week goes by,
then the rain delivers:

you, like the death of a swan
in a bed of reeds,

me, like a fish gone wrong
a mile down river;

exhibits X and Y,
matching rings on swollen fingers,

and proof beyond doubt
of married life -

the coroner's voice, proclaiming us
dead to the world, husband and wife.

This poem is taken from PN Review 141, Volume 28 Number 1, September - October 2001.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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