Among the criss-crossing shoppers,
I spot you: the curve of your jaw,
slope of your shoulders in a queue
or slow stoop to a shelf at Boots.
My steps stall, the back of my neck
sparks, a smile about to break out.
The angle opens. A stranger
glances through me.
Straight from the airport
My fingertips shudder
by your bed. I tell you
how David did in Maths,
how his forehand’s flowing
much better. Anything
to forget the smoothness
of your twitching cheek.
I read the night away
in time to your wrenched breaths
as if the plot could turn,
could end on a flashback.
You’re home, scooping me up
from my book to the rasp
of your fresh stubble.
My last year at primary school,
Mrs Travers brought out a set
of weights. We all took turns to test
our strength. Everybody but me
managed to lift a kilo.
Mr Kemp, one disobedient curl
escaping across his shiny temple,
offers me your clothes in a plastic bag.
I discover, thirty-five years later,
I still can’t lift that kilo.
They tinkle out of their velvet draw-bag.
The valuer leers. His mottled jowls twitch
as he points, That one, that’s the one to keep.
I grab the lot and warm them in my palm.
These buttery hoops long for their fingers.
They miss my family as much as me.
Three years later, all my shirts are waiting
for the iron when I’m summoned to close
a deal. I pick yours out of the wardrobe
and ease my shoulders in, squeeze through the cuffs.
My nose doesn’t notice, but my heart gulps.
Even after a wash, it smells of you.
(All poems from The Knives of Villalejo due out from Eyewear Publishing in June 2017)
Matthew Stewart lives between Extremadura and West Sussex, and works in the Spanish wine trade. His first full collection, The Knives of Villalejo, will be published by Eyewear Books in June this year, following two previous pamphlets from HappenStance Press. He blogs at http://roguestrands.blogspot.com