One day he tried too hard and broke it.
He patched it up
and it still worked,
though not as well.
The wheels still went round.
No one noticed any change
till one day it fell to pieces
and they all wondered why.
27 June 1982 – 23 September 1982
When is something finished? As writers we face this problem all the time. With my poems it’s when they get their number and go in the big red folder. Then they’re done and, with a couple of exceptions, never touched again. Nowadays the time between conception and completion is not long and if a poem sits in my draft folder for too long the odds are it’ll never get finished. At the moment there are 72 poems and bits of poems there. The oldest dates back to 2008. There are more in notepads lying around the flat that go back decades. Every now and then I’ll open up a document at random and see if I can do anything to make it work. Mostly I can’t. Or I’ll change a word or two and save it again. A friend lost her mum in 2011. The day I heard I wrote her a poem which I’ve still not sent to her. The last time I looked at it was in March 2014. On that date I made my 59th change to the poem. So far I’ve spent five hours on it and I suppose one day I’ll let her read it in whatever state it’s in by then but not yet.
On 23rd September 1982 my first wife left me. She’d told me some weeks beforehand that she wanted to and I begged her to reconsider, to give me time to change but it was an impossible task. She said to me, “I don’t know what I want but I know I don’t want you.” So what chance did I have? I walked in on her and my best friend sitting in the dark listening to music, the guy she’s now married to. Of course she insists there was nothing going on at the time and it was all in my head. Of course she does.
For some years after my wife divorced me our daughter would periodically ask me why we broke up. Once she got old enough the question changed. She wanted to know what the two of us were doing together in the first place. It’s a good question and a much easier one to answer: people—and by ‘people’ I mean our parents—said we shouldn’t be together and so we decided to show them. Parents can be dumb.
‘A Marriage’ was first published in Kissing the Sky #1 in 1990.